Everyone knows we can exercise to look better, whether the goal is to slim down, build muscle or brag about finishing a marathon, but that’s really just the start of how exercise can improve our quality of life. Here are seven other reasons to motivate you to get moving (even when life’s busy) and some suggestions of activities to try.

1. Energy: You know that feeling of being too exhausted to even think about exercise? Sometimes it means we just aren’t getting enough. What we know from studies is that for people who complain of fatigue, energy levels can be increased by 20% and fatigue decreased by as much as 65% just by low-intensity exercise like walking for 15 minutes. Mitochondria (often likened to miniature power plants in our cells) can actually be increased with exercise. This isn’t to say that intense exercise won’t make you tired temporarily, but it will give you a stronger base to draw from once you recover. (Image via Balbir Chagger)

2. Mental Health: In addition to physical health, exercise is awesome for the mind. Physical activity stimulates us to release neurotransmitters and endorphins that leave us feeling happier and more relaxed. When we feel that amazing, it usually translates to improved confidence and self-esteem. (Image via Wall Save)

3. Immune System: Aerobic exercise strengthens organs like our heart and lungs, but it also powers up our immune system faster than a phone in an AC outlet. What’s going on inside? Well, our cells are going through that same workout and becoming better at combatting the bacteria and viruses we’re exposed to every day. Although the benefit may only last a few hours, that’s often enough to help us stave off the cold or flu. (Image via Love Your Transformation)

4. Sleep: There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to get some shuteye when you have a big day ahead of you. While the relationship between exercise and sleep is more complicated than a twentysomething’s relationships, we now know that exercise can help us sleep longer and soundly. The catch is that it only works when you make exercise a habit, so a single exercise session doesn’t guarantee restful sleep. While we don’t understand everything yet, one theory is that since our body heats up during exercise, that post-activity drop in body temperature can promote sleep. The other thought is that by reducing anxiety, your mind stops racing and you coast into slumberland. (Image via Sleep ‘N Beauty)

5. Creative Thinking: We don’t normally associate our most creative thinkers with impressive workout regimens, but there are some like Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami that can’t get enough of it. We’re only starting to do more research on the connection, but it’s looking like moderate aerobic exercise can improve cognitive function and creative potential up to two hours later. It’s thought that improved circulation to the brain acts as first-aid kit on damaged cells. Being relaxed doesn’t hurt either. (Image via Fitness and Frozen Grapes)

6. Sex: For all the advice and pharmaceuticals that exist to improve the physical piece of our relationships, perhaps we’re better off prescribing daily exercise. All of the benefits we’ve covered so far (yes, even creative thinking) help in the bedroom. (Image via She Knows)

7. It’s Fun and Social: While most people exercise alone, it doesn’t HAVE to be a solitary activity. Exercising with a friend, group or partner can be a healthier way to socialize than indulging in comfort foods or alcohol. It’ll also make you way more likely to make it a routine when you know someone else is depending on you to be there. Just be sure to choose something that doesn’t bore you. More on that in a sec. (Image via Psychologies)

Aren’t those some incredible reasons to exercise? Now here’s the challenge: making it a habit. If you want exercise habits to stick, be sure to pick something you enjoy doing. It isn’t going to be easy to convince yourself to do it if you dread it. Plus, there’s no one activity you must do, whether you’re looking to improve aerobic capacity, strength, speed or flexibility. Here are just some activities to experiment with:

1. Running: Not everyone is going to enjoy running. It’s miserable when you’re out of shape. But for those who persevere, the runner’s high is worth it. Try running with a local group or a pal. It’s so much easier to lace up and get out there. (Image via Men’s Fitness)

2. Hiking/Walking: If running isn’t your thing, there’s always hiking or long walks. Seek out new places you haven’t been, bring your camera and make an adventure out of it. It’s a great social activity for a date or amongst friends. (Image via Healthdate)

3. Biking: Biking shoes, spandex and shades might be your thing, but any bike and outfit will do. It’s an activity almost anyone can participate in, and like hiking, there’s always an opportunity to make it an adventure. Explore new neighborhoods, cruise the beach boardwalk or even run a few errands. You’ll get some exercise without even realizing it. (Image via SF Gate)

4. Swimming: I’ve alway been impressed with triathletes because swimming long distances isn’t easy. It takes strength, endurance and technique, unless you want to splash about aimlessly. It’s a complete body exercise and for those with joint issues, it’s low impact. (Image via Body Athletics Blog)

5. Surfing: If you love the ocean, the surf may be where it’s at. Even if you’re not catching the waves immediately, it’s an incredible workout tied to a lifestyle and culture that might get you hooked. If you don’t live near the ocean, try canoeing or stand-up paddle board. (Image via Fstoppers)

6. Yoga: Don’t let the serenity or chants of om fool you, there are many different types of yoga from restorative to bikram and everything in between. Most types will improve your breathing, flexibility and you’ll notice these improvements in your other physical pursuits. (Image via 3 x 30 Yoga)

7. Team Sports: An easy way to make exercise more sociable. With Craigslist, Meetup.com or any other site geared towards activities, it’s easy to find recreational leagues in soccer, kickball or inner-tube water polo (yes, I actually joined that one). (Image via Vimeo)

Did we miss any benefits or your favorite way to exercise? Tell us in the comments below!