We all know that exercise is good for us, yet we all create excuses not to do it. Nearly half of adults in the U.S. aren’t active enough to experience any health benefits, and approximately $117 billion in healthcare costs is associated with physical inactivity. There are many benefits of exercising regularly that have nothing to do with weight loss!
There are a lot of fitness myths that contribute to our aversion to physical activity. One is that exercise needs to be intense and sweaty for it to be worth it (it doesn’t). Another is that exercise isn’t really necessary unless you need to lose a lot of weight. Maybe you only want to lose ten pounds, and you plan to do it with diet and portion control. While that very well may be possible, it won’t necessary provide the best results. Regardless of your current body weight or your goal weight, regular and moderate exercise is associated with nearly countless benefits. In fact, you may be surprised by just how many areas of your life are impacted when you start a regular exercise routine.
You’ll also likely find that once you start adding more activity into your daily routine, it will become something you look forward to each day. Don’t put it off until tomorrow, next week, or next month. Starting today will be the best thing you can do for your body and overall health. Below are 10 amazing benefits of exercise to help encourage you to start moving.
1. Improved mental health
Exercise is one of the best antidepressants available. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or blue, getting more activity can make a huge difference in your mood and general outlook on life. While some people with severe clinical depression may require medication, for others, exercise works just as well. Exercising releases endorphins in your brain, which in turn trigger positive feelings. A simple walk around the block may be all you need to improve your mood. And if you’re used to eating your emotions, turning to exercise instead has a double benefit: not only will you be avoiding the unhealthy foods that contributed to your weight gain to begin with, you’ll also be burning more calories. To make it more fun, invite a family member or friend along for some talk therapy.
2. Increased energy levels
It may seem counterintuitive when you’re feeling exhausted, but opting for exercise instead of a nap can actually increase your energy. It’s easy to justify skipping the gym when so many of us are simply worn down and exhausted from busy schedules, but adding only 20 minutes of exercise a day can increase your energy levels by up to 20%. Instead of relying on another cup of coffee to get you through the day, try using your lunch hour to take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
3. Better sleep
On the flip side of increased energy levels is better sleep. Consistently exercising can improve sleep quality and quantity over time. Subjects in long-term studies slept an average of 1.25 hours longer per night than their non-exercising counterparts. The study also found that sleep and exercise is a two-way path. If you have a good night’s rest, your workout will be better. The better your workouts are, the better you’ll sleep.
4. Improved mental clarity and memory
Physical activity creates chemicals in the brain that promote the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and improve the health of brain cells. The result is improved function of the prefrontal and medial temporal cortex, sections of the brain that control thinking and memory. Those who exercise consistently over a six-month period see an actual increase in brain volume. This increase in alertness and cognitive functioning can go a long way toward improving your daily life.
5. Strengthened immune system
Multiple studies have shown that exercising regularly will increase immune system strength. Physical activity may flush bacteria from the vascular system, help the circulation of illness-detecting antibodies, or raise body temperature enough to kill harmful bacteria. The immune system is the first line of defense for not just cold and flu viruses, but also serious illnesses such as cancer. By strengthening your immune system, you’ll notice improvements in your overall health. This means taking fewer sick days and feeling less run down, leading to a more enjoyable overall lifestyle.
6. Better skin
Aside from proper cleansing and hydration, skin health can be vastly improved with regular exercise. Exercise increases blood flow throughout the body. This improved circulation delivers increased oxygen and nutrients to skin cells and helps carry away waste products. Not only will you start to feel better with regular exercise, but you’ll look better, too.
7. A better sex life
For some people, this may be the biggest perk of all for sticking to a new exercise routine. The correlation largely has to do with the endorphin release mentioned earlier. Endorphin release causes positive feelings, but those endorphins also prompt the release of sex hormones. In addition to endorphins, people who exercise are more likely to have a healthy body image, which can lead to a sexy confidence boost in the bedroom.
8. Improved heart health
It’s a well-known fact that physical activity builds muscle, and the hardest-working muscle in the body is the heart. The number-one killer of most ethnic groups in America is heart disease. Exercising on a regular basis has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, so isn’t that reason enough? A healthy heart can lead to a longer life.
9. Improved back pain and posture
Many careers today are typically performed from behind a desk, hunched over and sedentary. Eight hours a day, five days a week in this position is detrimental to spine health. To reverse this, physical activity is necessary to build muscle and help hold the body upright. Very often, people complain about chronic back pain that is caused simply by being sedentary too many hours of the day. Yoga in particular can be especially beneficial for back pain and posture.
10. Disease prevention
Chronic, degenerative diseases are a major cause of death in the United States. The risk of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers can all be reduced with physical activity. In addition to increasing immunity, exercise can help reduce cholesterol levels, fight obesity, and prevent diabetes — all excellent reasons to begin an exercise regimen today.
Remember that a regular exercise routine doesn’t have to mean spending an hour at the gym. A regular walking routine is one of the best things you can do for your health. Physical activity is anything that moves your body and burns calories, so find activities you enjoy! This may mean yoga, barre workouts, Zumba, swimming, dancing, or even interactive video games.
Need help achieving your weight-loss and wellness goals? Garcia Weight Loss offers personalized weight loss programs designed to help you look and feel your best. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on February 15, 2018