Do you exercise? If so, why do you exercise? For me, vanity is the number one reason. I spent many years of my life overweight, and those years weren’t kind to my body. I want to get back my toned thighs, and I really want to have muscular arms like that lady in “The Terminator”. There are a lot more reasons than looking good to take up exercising though. The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are amazing!
Benefit No. 1 – Exercise can help you lose weight
If you are trying to lose weight, exercise is non-negotiable. You must burn more calories than you eat, and exercise is the way. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, when you engage in any physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. You don’t need to set aside large chunks of time for exercise to reap weight-loss benefits, either. You can get more active throughout the day in simple ways — by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or revving up your household chores. Run with the dog, chase the kids. Just get up and move.
Benefit No. 2: Exercise combats health conditions and diseases
Being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol in your body and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly, which decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Staying active can also help prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, and arthritis. Controlling health issues is why I originally started exercising. Physical activity FORCES my muscles to use up the sugar in my body, which in turn keeps my diabetes under control. Moving daily keeps my muscles strong, toned and limber, which helps ease arthritis pain.
Benefit No. 3: Exercise reverses the detrimental effects of stress
Mercy. Some days I’m just begging for mercy, pleading for relief from the stresses of my daily life. Yes, I LOVE my life, being a wife, mother and employee. Some days, though, the demands can be overwhelming. Jumping on the treadmill or the elliptical for 30 minutes at lunchtime can blow off tension by increasing levels of “soothing” brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. What’s even more fascinating, though, is that exercise may actually work on a cellular level to reverse stress’s toll on our aging process, according to a 2010 study from the University of California—San Francisco. The researchers found that stressed-out women who exercised vigorously for an average of 45 minutes over a three-day period had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and inactive. Working out also helps keep us from ruminating “by altering blood flow to those areas in the brain involved in triggering us to relive these stressful thoughts again and again,” says study coauthor Elissa Epel, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF.
Benefit No. 4 – Exercise can lift depression
Other research suggests that burning off 350 calories three times a week through sustained, sweat-inducing activity can reduce symptoms of depression about as effectively as antidepressants. That may be because exercise appears to stimulate the growth of neurons in certain brain regions damaged by depression. What’s more, animal studies have found that getting active boosts the production of brain molecules that improve connections between nerve cells, thereby acting as a natural antidepressant. Exercise can be used to complement—not substitute—drug treatment for depression.
Benefit No. 5: Exercise boosts energy
Do you find yourself winded after carrying the groceries to the car? Does scrubbing tubs or mopping floors leave you panting and drenched in sweat? Regular physical activity improves your muscle strength and boosts your endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and trains your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you will have more energy to go about your daily chores.
Benefit No. 6: It improves learning and keeps the brain fit
Exercise increases the level of brain chemicals called growth factors, which help make new brain cells and establish new connections between brain cells to help us learn. Even mild activity like a leisurely walk can help keep your brain fit and active, fending off memory loss and keeping skills like vocabulary retrieval strong. Interestingly, complicated activities, like playing tennis or taking a dance class, provide the biggest brain boost. Complicated activities also improve our capacity to learn by enhancing our attention and concentration skills, according to German researchers who found that high school students scored better on high-attention tasks after doing 10 minutes of a complicated fitness routine compared to 10 minutes of regular activity. I’ve discovered this with my youngest son, DirtBike. He is dyslexic and has mild attention deficit, and we’ve figured out that letting him [literally] run or bike around the block in between blocks of study times helps him sustain his focus.
The bottom line…
Exercise and physical activity are a great way not only to manage your weight, but also to feel better! It can improve your mood, decrease tension and help your mind stay sharp. Your body – and your brain – needs exercise. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. If you haven’t been exercising on a regular basis, start slow with walking at a brisk pace, say five to six minutes at a time. Increase the time every few days until you have worked up to a full 30 minutes. And remember, it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do; it only matters that you get up and DO IT!!
Move Yourself! Keep the Faith.