We all know the benefits of exercise. Every day brings with it a new scientific report on the benefits of staying healthy and giving tips on why we should exercise. Studies have shown that the best way to keep your body and mind in top shape is to be physically active. Almost everyone, no matter what his or her physical condition, can engage in at least some form of bodily exercise. This website aims to give everyone the proper tools and information needed to stay or get fit and healthy.
I’ve culled through the wealth of data on exercise and health to come up with this list of my personal favorite 10 solid reasons to work that body and/or mind of yours. Here’s the short and sweet on these impressive ways that exercise can keep you in the best possible shape.
- Reduces body fat and helps you lose weight. Your BMI, or body mass index, provides an approximate measure of your overall metabolic status. To calculate yours, go to the Centers for Disease Controlwebsite where you enter your height and weight and it spits out your BMI and a chart that tells you where you stand. If you’re in the overweight to obese categories now, a regular program of aerobic exercise can bring your BMI down to normal levels mainly by swapping the fat for the fat-free tissues in your body. The good news is that the more you exercise, the more you can work off your body fat because muscle “burns off” consumes calories, effectively speeding up your metabolism. It’s important to note that BMI doesn’t take into account muscle mass, as muscle is denser than fat, so it is not the end-all-be-all of health metrics, but it can help guide you in the right direction. My two favorite metrics are BMI and body fat percentage.
- Reduces blood pressure. Chronic hypertension is the number one form of heart disease and is the leading killer in the United States. Hypertension is caused by the increased plaque in the arteries that builds up from consuming a high-fat diet. Exercise helps reduce your blood pressure, in part, by attacking the plaque in your arteries and removes the buildup to stop those blood clots. Exercise and healthy lifestyle causes the arteries to widen, and the blood flows through more freely, causing your blood pressure to eventually start to drop. Hypertension also decreases as the result of exercise because your heart, a muscle, is getting a workout. The stronger your heart muscle gets, the greater its ability to pump blood through the arteries, which also helps to reduce your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heat disease.
- Keeps bones strong. Another normal age-related change is the loss of bone mineral strength. This is why the breaking of bones is very common in elderly people as their bones are not as strong as they once were. Here again, the magic number of a 1 percent loss per year seems to be the considered wisdom of how fast our body’s bones get thinner and weaker. Again, exercise is the key to maintaining your bone’s health. Increasing bone strength requires resistance training in which you lift weights. The amount of resistance training varies according to your age and physical strength, but it’s got to be more than bringing a heavy bag of groceries from your car to your kitchen. You need to spend no less than an hour a week of increasingly strenuous weight-lifting until you reach your maximum potential. Your bones will thank you for it!
- Builds muscle mass. My personal favorite reason. Weight/resistance training builds your muscles. In fact, the tension of your muscles against your bones is what also helps your bones get the maximum benefit of weight lifting. Muscle mass and bone strength go hand-in-hand when it comes to weight lifting. If you don’t engage in weight-lifting or resistance training on a regular basis, you’ll lose muscle strength at the rate of – guess what—1 percent per year.. In fact, the process of “sarcopenia,” which refers to normal loss of muscle strength with age, is best reversed by this type of exercise. Keeping your muscles strong also helps you stay more aerobically fit and helps you maintain a healthy lean (or fat-free) body mass.
- Boosts your energy levels! After exercising, your body is functioning more efficiently and you’ve got more oxygen to fuel your body’s cells. You also feel fewer aches and pains and have greater strength throughout the day. As a result, you can go about your daily activities feeling less fatigued, stressed, and weary. In addition, you might notice a sort of energy and “glow” that healthy people have. Although going to the gym early in the morning or late in the evening after a long day at work may feel like the last thing you have energy to do, once you build exercise into your daily routines, these workout bouts will actually seem less tiresome because you’ll feel more mentally and physically capable of carrying them out. In fact, you will start to look forward to exercising as it is a break from the mental tasks and allows you to clear your head.
- Improves sex life. Everyone’s favorite topic – sex. Keeping your muscles active through use helps promote the demands placed on your endocrine glands to produce more hormones. This means exercise can help you perform better in the bedroom. With more muscle mass comes greater stimulation to produce androgens which help both men and women maintain their sexual functioning. You are also likely to feel more fit and be more fit, which is a huge mental boost and in turn will benefit your interest in and ability to carry out sexual activity physically. Mental benefits translate to physical benefits. Your emotional resilience will also be greater if you exercise, which also benefits your relationship health.
- Brings about better sleep. Everyone understands the advantage of quality sleep. We need adequate sleep to function properly throughout the day and ensure that we have the energy and mental ability to perform at our greatest. Although sleep experts recommend that you not exercise right before you go to bed as this may interfere with your body’s natural clock, exercise during the day benefits your sleepat night. The physical exertion you engage in during the day helps your body’s circadian rhythm keep in tune and makes you have a good night’s rest. Sleeping better at night also improves, in turn, your immune functioning and even lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cognitive impairment. A win-win for sure!
- Improves mood. It’s a well-kept secret that people who exercise regularly also have lower risk of depression. This can be due to numerous reasons. A few theories is that people who exercise tend to be proud of their body, increasing their self-esteem. Other theories include the increase of endorphins (the happy chemical) in our brains during exercise leading us to have a better mood. Our pill-popping culture tends to emphasize medical interventions for psychological disorders over behavioral treatments due to its relative ease and convenience. Exercise is one of these behavioral treatments. Endorphins are the natural “feel good” neurotransmitters that start to exert their effects after about 20 minutes of training. These regular exercise-related boosts eventually improve your overall mental health over the long term.
- Lowers anxiety. In addition to exercises positive effect on mood, exercise also improves and reduces your anxiety. As your levels of endorphins increase, your feelings of worry also start to diminish as well. When you exercise, you also refocus your attentionfrom your daily problems to the workout itself clearing your head similar to meditation. You can gain a fresh perspective on even the most preoccupying concerns in your life by taking an exercise break and clearing your head. When you return to these daily problems, you approach them with renewed energy and even some new ways to figure out solutions. It is for this reason that for people who exercise daily, it feels unnatural to miss a workout. When they miss a workout, something feels “off”.
- Builds intelligence and improves brain function. Along with memory, your intellectual skills benefit from regular physical activity. As oxygen flows more freely to your brain, not only does your hippocampus benefit but so does the part of your brain involved in planning and reasoning (the prefrontal cortex). It is for this reason that after a workout, you have a mental clarity not present before. Mental activity, particularly involvement in exercises that require you to respond quickly, also boosts your intelligence and even your ability to carry out activities of daily living.
I hope that before you’ve made it through all 10 of my favorite reasons, you’ve put on your sneakers, signed up for the gym, gotten out your yoga mat, or decided to call your local gym or YMCA to find out about classes. No matter what your age, exercise can help you achieve greater physical and mental fulfillment. Start exercising today!