Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. You're stronger, you get toned and you even get to enjoy all of the happiness-inducing brain chemicals. But sometimes those reasons aren't quite enough. For people looking to build character and strengthen family, not just build and strengthen muscles, regular exercise can seem like one more demand on their time. As a matter of fact, they sometimes feel guilty for taking that time away from their families and homes.

I'm here to tell you that there are benefits to getting fit beyond endorphins and endurance. Regular exercise can shape your whole life, even including your character, for the better. As you consider your New Year's health goals, keep the following thoughts in mind.

1. Exercise gets you in the mindset to do other things regularly

If you exercise every day, it becomes a trigger for other behaviors, especially if you do the same thing every day after exercise. As for me, I exercise at 9 a.m., then come home and write at least 1,000 words. This usually takes me until 11 or 11:30, so I am ready to build a yummy, healthy lunch. Exercise can set your whole day on the right track as it initiates a chain reaction of good choices. Here are some ideas to get you motivated to exercise.

2. Regular exercise builds confidence

I'm not just talking about confidence in regard to your physical appearance and stamina, although it certainly does help. I'm talking about being a more confident person in general by doing something about the problems you face. Maybe you have a hard time making good habits. Can you imagine how empowering it would feel to make exercise a normal part of your life? Knowing we are taking responsibility for our health can be so good in so many ways. We are becoming better, more energetic parents. We set good examples for our children. We even stop pouting to our spouses so much.

I began exercising regularly after some loving encouragement from my husband. Rather than just telling me to stop making discouraged remarks about my appearance, he helped me understand that it was OK to spend time on me, including exercising. As a result, some days that means that we eat leftovers for dinner, again, but I am a much happier wife.

3. Exercise can build relationships

If you exercise with a group, you become cheerleaders for each other. You also provide extra accountability. Your exercise routine becomes a springboard for other conversations and other ways to spend time together. I recently started going to an informal Zumba class with some women who are of the same faith, but attend a different congregation. Without attending this class with them, I never would have seen them frequently enough to develop any sort of relationship. Now we trade jokes, empathy and encouragement like old friends. I draw emotional and mental strength from the camaraderie. The developing physical strength is just a perk.

4. Exercise provides a handy reality check

Sometimes we feel like we can do it all. Or worse, we feel like we have to do it all, and can't. Exercise, in all its sweaty, short-of-breath glory, helps us maintain our grip on how things really are. We can't do everything, nor should we expect that of ourselves. The effort is the important part, and it's only over time that effort pays off. That makes exercise the perfect way to maintain a little healthy humility.

If the increase of energy, strength, and stamina isn't enough to get you to start exercising, we hope you will consider the other benefits, as well. Regular exercise can help make your whole day more productive and invigorating. Maybe you could actually get all of those errands done that you said you were going to do. It can also make you more confident and more connected to the people around you.

Exercise can help you to be more connected to reality, too. You could be one of those moms that is content with her life as it is. You know, the mom with the messy house andthe sincere smile. Your family will benefit from your good physical health, but especially all the other kinds of good health, too. So, for their sake and yours, get moving today.

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