We all know that there are a ton of good reasons to exercise: the ability to do cool stuff (like cross the finish line at a race), the amazing feeling that only comes from walking out of a gym after a satisfyingly tough workout, the (many, many) health benefits. Yet one reason continues to trump all others when it comes to workout motivation: looks. I know—it can come off as kind of depressing when you look at it that way.
Newly released stats suggest that we may be making some headway on that front: 60 percent of women say better mental health and stress reduction are some of the key reasons they work out, according to a recent nationwide survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of The Daily Method (a barre studio chain). Meanwhile, just 20 percent of the ladies surveyed said that they’re working out to get bikini-ready bodies. While I love the idea of women hitting the gym for reasons that have nothing to do with how they look, I have to admit I was skeptical of the results. So I requested the full survey findings (as opposed to just relying on the press release), and I was right—mental wellbeing was actually tied for second place in the survey—and weight loss/weight management was the top fitness motivator, with 68 percent of participants’ votes. Here are the full results (keep in mind that women could select all answers that applied):
- Weight loss/management – 68%
- To build strength or tone up – 60%
- Overall mental health and stress reduction – 60%
- To get an energy boost – 38%
- To build or maintain self-confidence – 38%
- To improve or maintain good posture – 33%
- Bikini/bathing suit-ready body – 21%
- To make new friendships where I work out – 5%
- Something else – 7%
Of course, many of these options are tied to appearance—not just the bikini-ready body category. But here’s the thing: I think that many of us (myself included) try to make it to the gym and/or fitness classes regularly because we love that post-workout euphoria and because we want to look good. We want to feel great (or at least decent) when we put on a swimsuit, but we also want to ward off cancer and diabetes.
Yes, there are so many more important factors than the number on the scale or the size of your clothes. But isn’t labeling “I want to lose five pounds” as the “wrong” reason to work out just as black and white—and counterproductive—as labeling certain foods as “good” or “bad”? It’s OK to want to see physical results from your fitness routine—it’s when that becomes the only reason you work out or when burning calories turns into an obsession that negatively impacts other areas of your life that it becomes troublesome. So here’s to whatever motivates you to break a sweat—and hopefully there are many factors that get you to the gym/rock-climbing wall/cycling studio! I’d love to hear about your fitness motivators in the comments below. And no judgment here—after all, there’s no point feeling guilty about whatever compels you to do something healthy for yourself.