People exercise for many different reasons. The most common reasons for starting a new workout routine include losing weight, gaining muscle, getting fit and improving health. It may come as a surprise to some that exercising does so much more for your body, including the following nine most unexpected benefits of exercising.

Builds Self-Esteem

Exercise builds self-esteem by improving your physical appearance, boosting your mood, fighting depression and increasing your overall energy levels. Today’s modern-day society is hyper critical and obsessive over physical appearance, so it shouldn’t be shocking that many adults associate their physical appearance with their levels of self-esteem. As you gain confidence with workouts and begin to improve your physical appearance and fitness levels, your self-esteem will improve as well.

Fights Depression and Anxiety

Exercise produces chemicals in the brain, endorphins, that directly affects feelings of depression and symptoms of anxiety. Endorphins create feelings of happiness and euphoria that will instantly boost your overall mood. Incredibly, researchers have found that exercise is just as effective as prescription antidepressant pills in combating and treating chronic depression. Additionally, moderate-to-high intensity aerobics exercises are extremely effective in reducing anxiety sensitivity.

Improves your Complexion

Your face, skin and overall complexion are probably the last thing you have in mind when exercising, but recent studies have shown that working out improves skin compositions. In a mind-blowing study, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine found that individuals who frequently exercised in their 40s maintained microscopically similar skin compositions as those in their 20s and 30s.

Slows the Effects of Aging

While the Fountain of Youth has yet to be discovered, scientists have learned that exercise can make individuals younger at the cellular level. Researchers have shown that individuals who had exercised the most also had biological aging markers almost nine years younger than those who did not report any exercise. These biological aging markers, or the caps at the ends of human chromosomes, generally get shorter as we age, but they shrink much faster in individuals that do not exercise.

Heals your Body

Nearly everyone is aware that consistent exercise will improve your overall general health, but many may be surprised to learn that exercise can also have healing and regenerating effects on various body parts. In the past, doctors recommended that patients with certain diseases or chronic illness should not exercise in fear of injury. More recently, however, scientists have learned that even rigorous routines are safe and effective and should be included in the overall health plan for someone who is dealing with an illness.

Elicits a Runner’s “High” Euphoria

You’ve probably heard the phrase “runner’s high” before, but you may not know that the phrase accurately describes the measurable, physical release of endorphins, serotonin and nor-epinephrine that can make runners catch a real euphoria buzz. This real “high” is so alluring that popular culture often jokingly refers to exercise enthusiasts as “endorphin junkies”. Kip Matthews, Ph.D., explains how “exercise affords the body an opportunity to practice responding to stress…the less active we become, the more challenged we are in dealing with stress.”

Regulates Dopamine

Researchers have discovered that the release of dopamine is crucial in the process of becoming addicted to different substances or activities, remaining motivated and seeking out pleasure. Exercise can counteract and help control addiction and similar behaviors by producing dopamine levels independent of the addictive substance. An overall increase in dopamine levels regulates various brain functions including memory, mood, sleep, attention, movement and learning.

Boosts Creativity

Last year, famous neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki published her findings on the effects of exercise on the creative parts of our brains. Suzuki explains that exercise-induced changes in the brain help individuals come up with new ideas, improve imagination and even grown new brain cells. More specifically, aerobic workouts stimulate the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor which fosters new brain cell growth, enhances memory and increases people’s ability to imagine different scenarios.

Inspires Others

Amazingly, starting an exercise routine for yourself will inspire your family, friends and even people you don’t know well to better themselves too. Researchers have consistently proven that social support from a spouse or friend is highly intertwined with an individual’s ability to maintain a healthy exercise routine. This desire for social approval is one of the main drivers behind group workouts, fitness camps and small training groups. Attending that weekly yoga session could be encouraging your fellow classmates more than you realize!

These nine unexpected benefits of exercise are only a few of the amazing ways that our bodies respond to physical activity, and researchers will continue unlocking the mysterious potential behind staying active. It’s never too late to re-evaluate the importance of exercise in your life. As Claude Bouchard, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s director explains, “there is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do.”