Many people hit the gym or pound the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course get a rockin’ bod, but working out has above-the-neck benefits too. Regardless of age or fitness level, studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships, and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.

1. Reduce Stress – Rough day? Head to the gym for a quick workout and let the stress go! Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty – working out can reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win!

2. Boost Happy Chemicals – Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly the gym rat type – getting a happy buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood.

3. Improve Self-Confidence – Hop on a treadmill to look, and more importantly feel, like a million bucks. On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender, or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is self-worth. How’s that for feeling the (self) love?

4. Alleviate Anxiety – Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety – a warm bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? You might be surprised by the answer. The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down.

5. Increate Relaxation – Ever hit the hay after a long run or weight session at the gym? For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep.

6. Inspire Others – Whether it’s a group class at the gym or just a run with a friend, exercise rarely happens in a bubble. And that’s good news for all of us. Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving!