Defined as any movement that makes your muscles work and requires your body to burn calories, exercise is a vital part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many studies show it has numerous valuable health benefits – both physical and mental. These include delaying the signs of aging, facilitating weight loss, improving your sex life, and releasing hormones that are beneficial to your mental well-being. Researchers and medical professionals alike go so far as to claim that regular exercise may even enable you to live longer by helping to fight off serious chronic or progressive diseases. In short, exercise offers incredible benefits that can improve nearly every aspect of your health from the inside out. Many types of physical activity can be considered to be “exercise,” including swimming, running, jogging, walking, and dancing, among others. In this article, we’ve summarized the top 10 ways in which regular exercise can benefit your body and brain – they’re guaranteed to make a positive difference to your life. Whether you follow the guideline of 150 minutes of activity per week or do short daily walks or yoga sessions, regular exercise will inevitably improve your health in many ways.
Flexing Your Muscles to Improve Their Health
Exercise plays a vital role in building and maintaining healthy muscles and bones – physical activity such as weight lifting can stimulate muscle building when paired with adequate protein. This is because exercise helps release hormones that promote the ability of your muscles to absorb amino acids, helping them grow and reducing their breakdown.
Exercise helps build bone density during childhood as well as prevent osteoporosis later in life. Also, as people age, they tend to lose muscle mass and function, which can lead to injuries and disabilities. Practicing regular physical activity is essential to reducing muscle loss and maintaining strength as you age.
Watching the Weight Fall Off
Studies have shown that inactivity is a significant factor in weight gain and obesity. To understand the effect of exercise on weight reduction, therefore, it is essential to understand the relationship between exercise and energy expenditure. Your body spends energy in three ways: digesting food, exercising and maintaining body functions.
While dieting, reduced calorie intake will lower your metabolic rate, which will delay weight loss. On the contrary, regular exercise has been shown to increase your metabolic rate, which will burn more calories and help you lose weight. Additionally, studies have shown that combining aerobic exercise with resistance training can maximize fat loss and mass muscle maintenance.
Raising Your Energy Levels
Exercise – even if it’s not intense – can effectively boost energy levels in healthy people, as well as those suffering from various medical conditions. In fact, one particular study found that six weeks of regular exercise reduced feelings of fatigue for 36 healthy people who had reported persistent fatigue.
Furthermore, exercise has been found to increase energy levels significantly in people who have chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and other serious illnesses, as well as progressive illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. Although it’s the last thing you may feel like doing when tired, it’s probably the most beneficial.
Exercising Your Way to Happiness
Exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress. This is because it produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety, and it can also increase brain sensitivity for the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression.
Additionally, exercise can increase the production of endorphins, which are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain. Consequently, it can help people be more aware of their mental state and practice distraction from their fears. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter how intense the exercise is – it’s all beneficial.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
In short, a lack of regular physical activity is a primary cause of chronic disease. Regular exercise, on the other hand, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular fitness, and body composition, yet decrease blood pressure and blood fat levels.
In contrast, a lack of regular exercise — even in the short term — can lead to significant increases in belly fat, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and early death. Therefore, daily physical activity is recommended to decrease the risk of developing these diseases as well as reduce belly fat.
Improving Brain Health and Memory
Exercise can improve brain function, and help maintain memory and thinking skills. Firstly, it increases the heart rate, which promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Secondly, it stimulates the production of hormones that enhance the growth of brain cells. Regular physical activity is especially important in older adults since aging causes changes in brain structure and function.
Exercise can cause the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s vital for memory and learning, to grow, which increases mental function in older adults. Moreover, the ability of exercise to prevent chronic disease can benefit the brain, since its function can be affected by these diseases.
Turning Back the Clock
Oxidative stress occurs when the body’s antioxidant defenses cannot completely repair the damage that free radicals cause to cells. This can damage their internal structures and deteriorate your skin – the effects of which can be easily seen. Therefore, if you want to delay signs of aging, the less oxidative stress in your body, the better.
Although intense and exhaustive physical activity can contribute to oxidative damage, regular moderate exercise can increase your body’s production of natural antioxidants, which help protect cells. In the same way, exercise can stimulate blood flow and induce skin cell adaptations that can help delay the appearance of skin aging.
Improving Sexual Desire, Function, and Performance
Exercise has been proven to boost sex drive in both men and women. Engaging in regular activity can strengthen the cardiovascular system, improve blood circulation, tone muscles, and enhance flexibility, all of which can improve your sex life. Furthermore, it can enhance sexual performance and sexual pleasure, as well as increase the frequency of sexual activity.
Exercise can also help conditions that prevent sexual activity. One study found that a routine of a six-minute walk around the house helped 41 men reduce their erectile dysfunction symptoms by 71%, while another demonstrated that women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome increased their sex drive with regular resistance training for 16 weeks.
Reducing Pain and Increasing Tolerance
For many years, the recommendation by doctors and physiotherapists alike for treating chronic pain was rest, relaxation, and inactivity. However, in contrast, recent studies show that – somewhat surprisingly – exercise can actually help to relieve even debilitating chronic pain. Indeed, inactivity is not the way forward.
The studies show that exercise can help control pain associated with various health conditions, including chronic low back pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic soft tissue shoulder disorder, among others. Additionally, physical activity can also increase pain tolerance and decrease pain perception.
Sleeping Soundly and Feeling Energized
Regular physical activity, regardless of whether it is aerobic or a combination of aerobic and resistance training can help you sleep better and feel more energized during the day. Many studies on the effects of exercise on sleep have reached this conclusion.
Firstly, the energy depletion that occurs during exercise stimulates recuperative processes during sleep. Secondly, the increase in body temperature that occurs during exercise is thought to improve sleep quality by helping it drop during sleep. Engaging in regular exercise seems to be especially beneficial for the elderly, who tend to be affected by sleep disorders.