It’s no secret that exercise is important. Activities like running, walking, lifting weights, pilates, Zumba, swimming, cycling, and yoga (just to name a few) are vital to maintaining a healthy weight, toning and strengthening the muscles, and improving your overall physical appearance.
However, while weight loss and an improved physique are certainly two of the most notable – and obvious – advantages of working out, the benefits go far beyond better fitting clothing and a smarter look.
Such benefits are commonly called “non-scale victories”.
What are non-scale victories? What are some examples of these victories? What types of physical and psychological changes indicate that your workouts are helping you achieve those wins? Read on to find the answers to these questions and to learn why working out is one of the best things that you can do for your mind, body, and soul.
What are Non-Scale Victories?
As the name suggests, non-scale victories are the everyday triumphs that tell you your efforts are paying off, and that go beyond weight loss and an improved appearance. Known as ‘NSVs’ for short, these are commonly touted in weight loss communities like Weight Watchers as equally important to victories on the scale (and in the mirror).
In other words, these victories refer to the mental, emotional, and physical benefits that working out provides—the benefits you’ll experience other than lower numbers on your scale and waist.
Note: We’re talking about the NSVs that come from working out here, but the same applies to other strategies for healthy living like diet, abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and reduction of stress and anxiety.
What Are Some Examples of Non-Scale Victories?
Let’s take a look at a few examples of the immediate and everyday benefits that working out provides.
Ability to complete “activities of daily living”
Commonly referred to simply as “ADLs”, activities for daily living are, as the name suggests, those simple things that you can now do on a daily basis that you may not have been able to before. Examples of ADLs, include
- Touching your toes
- Tying your shoes
- Getting up off of the floor without struggling
- Going out for a jog (and not immediately feeling winded or sore)
- Climbing stairs without losing your breath
- Being physically active with your children
Recognition from others.
As you shed pounds, tone up your muscles, and firm your physique, your friends, family, and co-workers are bound to notice. In fact, they may shower you with compliments for your new and improved appearance, and those compliments are sure to boost your self-esteem and just make you feel happier.
Many first-time experiences can be linked to working out.
For example, as you lose weight and your muscles become toned, you may be able to wear clothes that you may not have been able to fit into or that you wouldn’t have been comfortable wearing before.
Because regular exercise boosts your strength and stamina, you may also end up being fit enough to do a 5k or half-marathon, competitive swimming, or perhaps even something extreme like train for a Tough Mudder.
The options for first-time experiences truly are endless.
Physical and Psychological Changes that Tell You Your Workouts are Working
The NSVs above are ones you’ll likely notice straight away. But medical and exercise science research has consistently shown that there are far more physical, mental, and emotional benefits that come from taking control of your health through regular exercise. Many of these may be more subtle, and not things you’ll notice until you reflect on them.
Here’s a look at some notable things that science suggests you may experience that’ll indicate your workouts are working:
Increased energy levels
Feeling sluggish is common among people who are sedentary, but much less so among those who exercise regularly. Indeed, research has found that regular physical activity leads to improved vigor and less fatigue.
The exact mechanism behind this is unclear, however lasting changes in the functioning of our central nervous system, and the production and availability of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine (both associated with improved mood and happiness) seem to be likely candidates.
Whatever the cause, consistently getting up off the couch and into your running gear is likely to boost your energy levels.
Improved sleep and reduced snoring
You’re likely to notice that you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer, and have better overall quality sleep when you workout regularly.
Indeed, sleep experts agree that regular exercise can be one of the best things that you can do for your sleep health. Studies have found that regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise of any sort can promote better sleep. This relationship may also explain the association between exercise and higher energy levels above. Better sleep means you’re more likely to feel rested and vigorous the following day.
Plus, when you sleep more soundly, you’re less likely to snore; something that your sleeping partner will most certainly be thankful for.
Less need for medication
Working out on a regular basis can help to reduce the need to take medication. Numerous studies have found that exercising improves insulin sensitivity, decreases blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and improves cardiovascular health. Additionally, it strengthens the muscles and ligaments. As a result, exercise can reduce your risk of developing chronic disease, as well as temporary illnesses, and it can minimize aches and pains, too; all things that you might have to take medication to manage.
More fun, happiness, and joy
When you look better, feel better, sleep better, and are able to experience firsts, ADLs, and receive compliments from the people you know, there’s no doubt that you’re going to have more fun, be happier, and ultimately experience more joy.
Studies have also found that regular exercise (especially workouts that get your heart pumping and make you sweaty) preserves and improves cognitive functions like memory and learning, and generally helps to keep our brains healthy.
Less stress and anxiety
Exercise is a natural and highly effective way to mitigate stress and anxiety. Not only does regular physical activity improve your general mood, but it also makes you more resilient to stressful and anxiety-provoking situations.
Less risk of chronic disease
As discussed, working out helps to improve your overall physical health and mental well-being. As a result, exercise can reduce your risk of developing various forms of chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many types of cancer, and even cognitive decline and dementia.
Summing It Up
Working out is beneficial for so many reasons, and the positive impact it has extends far beyond weight loss and an improved physical appearance. The benefits documented above are proof positive of that. So, next time you’re having a hard time motivating yourself to lace up your runners, remind yourself of the many non-scale victories you’re likely to experience.