Vanity may be one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but if it motivates you to start and maintain a fitness routine, it could help prolong your life. So says Gordon Patzer, a professor of business administration at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, and the author of six books on the physical attractiveness phenomenon.

According to Patzer, the desire to improve one’s physical appearance often is as strong a motivator to hit the gym as the desire to improve one’s overall health and fitness. The rewards for being physically attractive are tangible. Patzer notes that on average, good-looking people earn 5 percent more than average-looking people. This preference isn’t a recent development. The observation, “Personal beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of reference,” was made 2,000 years ago by Aristotle.

So with all of human history weighing on the side of vanity, starting an exercise program to lose weight, flatten those abs and firm that rear are all legitimate goals in and of themselves. That they produce health benefits may even seem secondary. But once people start feeling as good as they look, the incentive to continue gains momentum and usually perpetuates itself.

However, Patzer also notes that vanity as a motivator can become deadly if taken too far. “It can cross a line where we get into anorexia and bulimia, or people who do too much exercise and cause injury,” he said in an interview for the Los Angeles Times. As with any other endeavor, avoiding obsession is essential to maintaining balance and achieving the full range of benefits that working out offers – regardless of your reason for starting.

Taking vanity into account, ask yourself what aesthetic results you want your exercise routine to achieve, and build a program designed to reach your goals. Certified strength and conditioning specialist James Fell assesses the “vanity goals” of his new clients. In the same Los Angeles Times article as Patzer’s interview, Fell wrote: “Some are embarrassed to admit that they want to do things like lose belly fat or tighten up their butts, but I tell them it’s OK to embrace those feelings, as long as it’s in a manner that also improves health and increases physical performance.”

If you’re contemplating the ways you’d like to make heads turn – and achieve a healthier lifestyle – check out the classes and programs at your nearby Future Fitness Center! There’s truly something for everybody to make vanity a lively virtue!