You know that feeling you get when you walk by a mirror at the gym? You glance at yourself and think you’re starting to look pretty fit.

It’s a boost of confidence, and confirmation that your workout regime is paying off. But do you know all the ways that working out improves your self-confidence?

Here are the reasons why all that pulling, pushing, lifting, running, jumping and stretching makes you feel better about yourself.

Serving up self-reliance

When you’re following a fitness program, you’re relying on yourself to do something as opposed to someone else doing something for you. This adds to your confidence because it’s up to you how hard you work and how long you work for.

Meeting challenges

Sticking to a workout plan proves you have the mental fortitude to overcome challenges.

It’s the knowledge that you got up and went for that run when you didn’t want to, or you lasted three sets longer or lifted 10 pounds more weight. You begin to feel mentally confident in your abilities.

Instilling pride

At the end of every workout, you feel a sense of achievement because you committed to something and got it done. Even if it was a so-so workout, there’s pride in knowing that you could have skipped it, but you chose to persevere.

While one payoff is seeing yourself looking more fit, it goes beyond the reflection in a mirror. You also feel better when your clothes fit better. Those shorts that were tight last year are looser and that’s a great feeling.

Rewarding yourself is important, too. Set a goal and when you reach it, maybe buy yourself a new piece of workout clothing and wear it with a sense of accomplishment.

Boosting brain power

When we’re at work, we’re often multitasking. But when you’re at the gym doing a particular exercise, it’s hard not to be in the moment. Exercise brings mindfulness. When you’re running a set of stairs, you’re concentrating on running that set of stairs. It allows you to zone in and really focus in a way that we can’t always do while we’re managing other things in our lives.

But exercise does a lot more than help us focus – research shows that it actually boosts brain power. 

According to a Harvard Medical School report, memory and thinking is improved in six months if you do moderate-intensity exercise. The report noted regular exercise can increase the volume of selected brain regions, as well as promote the production of chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and help the overall health of new brain cells.

In another study, researchers found just 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week (which is only about 17 minutes a day), can improve memory.

And, if you spark your brain to work hard, you get more brain-boosting effects and one way to do that is trying out new workout routines that force you to concentrate more or learn new skills, according to Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey.

As people get fitter, the part of the brain that is connected to our memory and learning systems – the hippocampus – actually responds to aerobic exercise and grows. 

When you think, learn and remember better, your confidence in your abilities only grows.

Enhancing your mood

Have you noticed that if you go to the gym in a bit of a bad mood, or maybe you have a headache, that often disappears during your workout? That’s because exercise produces neurochemicals such as serotonin and endorphins, which elevate our mood.

There is also growing research connecting physical health and mental health, with some studies suggesting exercise may not only help treat depressive symptoms, but actually can be as effective as antidepressants.

Transferring the benefits

What you do in the gym also carries over to your daily life. Exercise boosts your metabolism and immune system, helping you ward off infections and decrease your chances of developing heart disease.

It also improves your strength. For example, if you do a farmer’s walk – walking with weights held down by your sides – you’ll soon be able to more easily carry your groceries home from the store. 

Numerous studies have also shown exercise influences sleep, improving the quality and helping those with sleep disturbances such as insomnia and sleep apnea.


Everyone feels good when they do something for themselves. With fitness, it’s doing activities that are beneficial for your body. You’re making yourself healthier, which could help you live longer.

That creates a boost in confidence because you know you can make smart choices, and you did!

The bottom line is that fitness affects your confidence and self-esteem in countless ways – not only at the gym and after you see the effects on your body and self-image, but throughout your brain and physiology, making you happier and healthier. And that’s a powerful confidence boost!