Fact: exercise is good for you.
For all the jokes we love to crack about exercising, there is no denying the many, many benefits a good, regular workout brings. Whether you hit the gym for two hours every other day, or have a daily 15-minute routine at home, actively working out improves your body from the inside out, and overall leaves you a much better person for it. Here are four of the best benefits you get out of exercising.
YOU CAN ACTUALLY EXERCISE AWAY HEALTH CONDITIONS
Yes, you can. Prevention may be better than cure—and exercise can certainly prevent many health issues from cropping up—but working out can also help you through a bad patch. When you exercise regularly, you immediately improve your blood circulation, which is good for all parts of your body, especially your brain that requires a healthy supply of oxygen to function. Not only will this make you instantly more alert and active, but a steady workout routine, particularly aerobic exercises, has also been linked to improved memory.
The increase in blood flow, and oxygen levels by extension, also strengthens your heart, which reduces your risk of heart diseases like high cholesterol and heart attack. Obesity and diabetes are also combatted when your fat, blood sugar, and insulin are maintained at healthy levels. In fact, exercise is strongly recommended to those suffering from these conditions, as it has been proven to help manage these conditions.
YOU FINALLY CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT
The perennial problem too many of us can relate to: weight. As we’ve mentioned above, exercising helps you prevent—or manage—obesity, but even if your weight doesn’t reach extreme levels, exercise, together with proper diet, will help you maintain the correct weight for your height, age, and overall wellbeing.
An important reminder: exercise is made to tone your body and condition your limbs to be stronger. This doesn’t necessarily translate to weight loss, and sometimes the opposite happens with certain exercises (think bodybuilding). Many people make the mistake of equating exercising to losing weight, and become frustrated when their expected results don’t happen. When you exercise, your body converts the nutrients you get from food, primarily carbohydrates, fats, and protein, into a “fuel” that allows you to perform rigorous activities. Carbohydrates and protein are important to your muscles, while fats chiefly serve as fuel for the body. Exercising allows your body to use these nutrients as they should be used, which, paired with the proper intake of the right amounts and kinds of food, results in a more controllable weight loss or gain.
It’s important to remember that doing only one or the other will not get you where you want to: when you only diet, the nutrients are simply stored aside and the body doesn’t use them much beyond the bare minimum required to function every day. On the other hand, when you exercise, but not pay attention to what you eat, you could easily be putting in too much of these fuels for your body to consume, or you’re not taking in enough to meet your needs. Strike a balance; consult a professional, like doctors and trainers, in order to get the best results for your situation.
When health experts and enthusiasts say exercising makes you happy, it’s not because they’re trying to sell you something. It’s because it’s actually true. Exercise triggers your “flight or fight” mode because it’s not the normal state your body is in (i.e., you’re moving more and faster than usual), and your brain takes it as stress. In response, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which dulls your reaction to pain. In an actual flight-or-fight situation, this reduced pain or fear perception is critical to allow you to keep going (think, running even after tripping hard, or fighting even when you’re outnumbered). But in a normal workout, these dangerous situations are decidedly missing, so naturally, your brain processes things differently. If your body is in a heightened state (meaning, it’s excited), and nothing is hurting or scaring you, then it must mean that… you’re happy. Euphorically so.
And the more you exercise, the longer that feeling stays. Studies show, as reported by online publication Fast Company, that exercising every day for 20 minutes is the key to feeling happier every day. Those 20 minutes, as first reported by New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Reynolds, are the first few minutes a normally sedentary person finally moves around, and those 20 minutes are packed with the most health benefits. And given that people’s moods “significantly [improve] after exercising”, as a University of Bristol study showed, it only follows that getting in those reviving 20 minutes of workout should be enough to considerably brighten up those days too.
YOU’RE A BETTER PERSON ALL AROUND
So what happens when you’re keeping diseases at bay, your body is at a healthy state, and you’re just a tad happier every day? Naturally, you become a better person all around.
Physical wellness is the most obvious benefit to a regular workout. You reduce your chances of contracting preventable diseases, and in the event that you do, you have a ready means with which to manage them. Your weight is proportional to the rest of you, and your body is properly getting out any excesses, be it fat or carbohydrates. Your muscles are stronger, and your mind is sharper and more alert.
But mental health is just as important an advantage to exercising regularly. You’re happier, and that positivity goes well beyond the four walls of a gym. Studies have long linked habitual exercise to managing depression and anxiety, primarily due to the increased release of endorphins. When you regularly workout, you reduce your stress, and the improvement in your physique is also directly connected with improving your self-esteem. Feeling more confident in yourself helps mitigate the negativity that comes with depression and anxiety. In addition, the social circle you form when you exercise in public spaces like a well-maintained gym with a supportive staff and encouraging peers such as Rec Xpress, can also become your support system to help you through your mental health issues.
However you look at it, exercising is good for you. There are numerous benefits, big or small, that comes with regularly working out, that you get to reap in the little, everyday things, or in the bigger, long-term haul. It helps you combat diseases, it gives you a healthier physique and helps with weight control, it makes you happy, and it simply makes you a better person all around, inside and out.