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By Stacey Penney, MS, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS

For some of the top New Year’s resolutions, the benefit of incorporating exercise to achieving the goals seems obvious. But for others, the connections are just now coming to light.

Here are some of the top New Year’s resolutions, from losing weight to falling in love, and how exercise helps (1,2).

Losing weight

Exercise can help with weight loss efforts and maintenance (3,4). Aerobic activities are powerhouses when it comes to burning some of those excess calories, and high intensity interval training (HIIT) can keep the calories torching long after a session is complete. Resistance training is also key to building and maintaining your metabolically active lean body mass (4). The stabilization endurance training phase of the NASM Optimal Performance Training™ Model (OPT™) model is a great place to start with clients who have weight loss goals. This phase forces the body to recruit more muscles to stabilize it (in addition to the higher repetitions and circuit design), and in doing so, more calories are potentially burned (5).

But you can’t out exercise a bad diet.

Eating healthier

Some studies link exercise to healthier diet choices (6,7). It could also be influencing perceptions of hunger by decreasing appetite after exercising, for both aerobic and resistance activities (8). One drawback to the exercise diet connection is that many people often assume they are burning more calories than they actually are and justify eating more-which doesn’t bode well with weight loss efforts.

Fall in love

We’re not sure that exercise will actually help you fall in love (and how would you make that a SMART goal?) but it can help you increase your self-esteem and libido (9,10). This perk goes for both men and women. For women, it seems that exercise has even more of a positive impact on satisfaction with 20 to 30 minute exercise sessions prior to sexual activity (10).

Stop smoking

For those trying to kick the habit, exercise can have a protective effect against relapse and makes nicotine withdrawal a little easier to manage (11). And since smokers typically have lower rates of physical activity compared to non-smokers (along with less healthy diet patterns), adding exercise to the plan can lower the risk for COPD and other chronic health conditions related to inactivity (12).

Make more, save more

Want a raise? Try exercising! Workers who regularly exercised saw a 6 to 10% wage bump over workers who don’t pump the weights or hit the cardio (13). On top of that, workers who exercised in the morning before their work day or during their lunch were less stressed, happier, and more productive-definitely things that would catch the bosses attention when it comes to raises or promotion opportunities (14)! Many employers are also offering incentives to get active and improve biometric scores, thus lowering their benefit costs and your contributions, keeping more money in your pocket!

Learn something new

Consider exercise a form of grown-up recess. Adding exercise, especially aerobic type exercise, to your learning pursuits has been shown to improve attention, reading comprehension, and even a boost to the areas of the brain responsible for memory (15,16). And an extra benefit, remembering a good workout could spur the motivation for future workouts (17).

Reduce stress and enjoy life more

Exercise not only boosts your health but helps to reduce stress and anxiety (18). Whether it’s seeking a runner’s high or just a flush of fresh blood and oxygen to clear your head, a bout of activity can give you a new perspective. There’s even a postural connection to mood and depression. Postural traits commonly associated with depression include forward head flexion, increased thoracic kyphosis, rounded shoulders whereas it is easier to create positive thoughts and feelings in a more upright posture (19). (Put the NASM Corrective Exercise Specialisations to work to address postural issues, such as upper crossed syndrome, that may be derailing happiness.)

When you hear people talking about their resolutions (AKA: goals), consider how you could help them in their pursuits by incorporating exercise into their journey.