19 Signs Your Fitness Routine Is ‘Working’ That Have Nothing to Do With Weight Loss

For far too long, working out has been conflated with weight loss. Even now, fitness Instagram remains saturated with before-and-after collages showing bodily changes said to result from a whole bunch of exercise programs, from strength training to Pilates to running to biking. This perpetuates one of the most pervasive myths in fitness: that the only reason to move your body is to change your body.

And that’s a problem. Beauty ideals about thin bodies are rooted in racism, unattainable for many, and perpetuate bias against larger bodies that has mental and physical consequences, Jessica Thompson, a certified kettlebell instructor and wellness coach, as well as the owner and program director of getFIT615, an anti-diet culture gym based in Nashville, tells SELF.

“People who may want to come to the gym may want to move their bodies [but] feel a lot of trauma around being in the gym because they’ve been judged and stigmatized for their bodies,” Thompson says.

This focus can turn off people—especially those in larger bodies—from starting with, or rejoining, fitness. The pervasive, aesthetics-based culture makes them believe “they’re not enough as they are, and they need to change and fit a mold,” Thompson says.

When people feel like fitness isn’t for them, it excludes them from the myriad other benefits that come from regular motion, including a longer life. In fact, per a research review published in 2021 in the journal iScience, studies have found boosting the amount of physical activity can reduce the risk of an early death anywhere from 15 to 50%. Meanwhile, intentionally losing weight doesn’t reliably translate into extra years.

But this doesn’t mean you have to throw out the idea of progress altogether. While some people simply enjoy unstructured movement—say, walking, hiking, or dancing with no point other than enjoying the moment—others are motivated by working toward a goal. (Chances are, you might have both tendencies at different times, too.)

So if the number on the scale isn’t necessarily a true indicator of success—or isn’t what you want to prioritize—how do you know, from day to day or week to week, if you’re reaping the benefits of your fitness program?  Fortunately, there are many markers of success far more potent than weight. Here, 19 better signs your fitness routine is working that have nothing to do with weight loss.

1. Your consistency improves.

Most people just getting started with fitness have an erratic relationship with exercise, Morit Summers, an NSCA-certified personal trainer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer who owns the Brooklyn gym Form Fitness, tells SELF.

“Many people are not consistent with movement,” she says. “One week, they’ll go on a really long walk and then the next week, they’ll do nothing.” This can make it more difficult to get into the fitness groove, and even harder to hit any fitness goals you may have.

So the first goal she sets for them—the foundation upon which everything else is built—is to develop a regular movement practice. Depending on where they’re starting, it might be moving for twice a week for a month straight, then three times per week. This can vary based on the person, and it doesn’t need to be hard workouts, either. It’s more about creating a habitual spot for movement in your life, and then continuing to meet that on a regular basis.