February 5

8 Physical and Mental Benefits of Exercise You May Not Know About

Reading time 3 min.

You probably know that exercise is important. Experts recommend healthy adults get about 30 minutes of exercise on most days, totaling at least 150 minutes each week. But it can be difficult to fit exercise in, especially if your schedule is already packed full. Before you trade walking at lunchtime for working through it, consider the amazing benefits exercise offers to your physical and mental health.

Happier Moods

When you exercise, even at a low or moderate intensity, your body produces chemicals called endorphins. These promote a sense of well being, sometimes bordering on euphoria. By turning exercise into a pleasurable experience, endorphins make you more likely to repeat the action.

The New York Times reported that even small amounts of exercise can increase happiness. So, go ahead and walk the dog instead of letting him out in the backyard. Your mood will thank you.

Higher Levels of Self Esteem

People who regularly engage in physical activity are more likely to have a healthy dose of self-esteem. It may be the result of chemical and hormonal responses that occur within the body after exercise. Then again, maybe it’s because those fat burners your trainer puts you through at the gym help you slide into those skinny jeans with ease. Either way, you’ll likely have an improved sense of yourself, so get up off the couch and get moving.

Enhanced Memory and Brain Power

Ways to preserve and improve cognitive function have been making headlines lately. While brain training exercises may be new, physical activity as a way to help you think more clearly and remember more accurately is not.

You’ll need to work up a bit of a sweat though. Aerobic activities, or those that increase your heart rate and respiration, have been directly linked to healthier brains in aging adults. Some of that boost is due to increased circulation and growth factors within the brain that helps preserve and even increase function.

Lower Rates of Disease

You probably know that exercise can help you become healthier, but you may not realize its wide-reaching ability to reduce disease. When you make exercise a regular part of your lifestyle, you are significantly less likely to develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, joint pain, bone loss, and even some forms of cancer. Those are some pretty serious conditions that can possibly be avoided with exercise.

Increased Energy Levels

Increased circulation and a stronger heart mean more energy. This is true of even low-intensity exercise. Try a Tai Chi class or perform a few chair yoga poses for a mid-day pick me up at work.

Better Quality of Sleep

Exercise will also help you achieve better sleep. Because most people struggle to get the recommended amount of sleep every night this is a huge benefit of exercise that should not be overlooked.

Because your brain and body work to regulate levels of hormones, electrolytes, fluids, and a whole slew of other things at night, this time is important to your overall health and wellness.

Reduced Feelings of Anxiety

If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, exercise might be the last thing you actually want to do. But, even short bursts of aerobic exercise have been shown to relieve symptoms of these very serious disorders.

Exercise physically addresses anxiety and depression by stimulating endorphin production. It also allows you to focus on something positive, which can be helpful. By joining a social fitness activity, such as an exercise class or walking group, you are also reducing isolation and developing a peer support system.

Exercise is also empowering. It is a tool you can use to better cope with your symptoms. The seemingly simple act of taking charge of your own health can be a momentous step for someone struggling with mental illness.

Stronger Immune System

New research is showing a link between moderate levels of exercise and increased immune function. This could be the result of improved circulation, decreases in stress levels, or lower amounts of chronic inflammation. Either way, moving more may help you avoid getting sick, and that is a definite benefit.

Some of the best benefits of exercise have less to do with its physical impacts and more to do with emotional wellness. Take advantage of them by finding an activity you enjoy, enlisting some friends to work out with you, and making it a part of your regular schedule.

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