May 27 2021 – Kash Behmardi
Even though staying fit and healthy living has become very popular in recent years, a lot of people still think that a healthy diet and exercising is only for those trying to lose weight. Of course, a regular physical activity can help us stay in good shape but there is so much more to a healthy lifestyle and maintaining fitness.
Fitness, yoga, running and many other forms of physical activity are the key to a healthy, balanced life and mental well-being － because exercising does not only help your body, most of all it helps your mind. Better and longer sleep, improved memory and reduced stress － these are just a few of the benefits of a regular workout.
In case you are still wondering what the reasons you should consider exercising on regular basis are, here are a few of them:
1. Regular exercise makes you happier
And it is not just a wishful thinking. There is actual science behind that statement.
Have you ever heard of “post-workout bliss” or a “fitness high”? These and many
other similar terms refer to that feeling of happiness you sometimes get after working out. Why does it happen? The answer is simple… endorphins!
But they don’t only help to diminish our perception of pain and stress － they also generate a positive feeling in our brain. Thanks to the endorphins we simply feel better about ourselves.
If you have ever noticed that you feel more positive and energetic after a good workout session it’s all thanks to the endorphins. According to Medical News Today research shows an increase in the release of endorphins after exercise. Physical activity can boost mood and increases endorphins, and so regular exercise is often prescribed as a treatment for depression and anxiety.
2. A good workout boosts your energy
It’s no surprise for anyone that regular exercise makes you stronger. With a proper, regular workout you improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance.
According to Mayo Clinic exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to our tissues and helps our cardiovascular system work more efficiently. This simply means that your heart and lungs become stronger, giving us more energy.
So if you are often feeling tired and fatigued during the day, the simplest solution is to start exercising regularly. Don’t worry, you don’t have to start with an intensive fitness session. A short run in the morning before work or a relaxing yoga session in the evening can be a good start. As you exercise more often you will gradually start to feel the need to work out more.
3. Improve your memory with exercise
Most people associate physical activity with a healthy and strong body. Not many of us know that exercise can help us improve our memory, and change our brain and the way we think too!
According to Harvard Health Publishing of Harvard Medical School, intensive regular aerobic exercise, which makes your heart pump blood faster, can boost the size of the hippocampus － the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
As the publication states: “Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factor —chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety.” (Godman, 2018).
So if you want to improve your memory for longer and keep your wits about as you get older - make sure you exercise regularly.
4. Exercise more, sleep better
If you think that fitness and sleep have nothing to do with each other you couldn't be more wrong! Exercising can actually help you get better quality sleep.
There are number of reasons why physical activity helps us get a better night’s sleep. It’s been proven that exercise helps us fall asleep faster －not because we are more tired after an intensive fitness session, but because of our temperature changes. When we work out our body temperature rises and then gradually falls making it easier for our bodies to fall asleep.
According to the research conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine, daily exercise, as short as 20-30 minutes in the evening or in the afternoon, allowed people participating in the study to fall asleep 50% faster and sleep even an hour longer.
What’s more, intensive exercise allows our bodies to stay in the deep sleep phase for longer, meaning that the quality of sleep increases and you get more out of your rest－ feeling more energetic and well-rested in the morning.
So if you suffer from insomnia or just want to improve the quality of your sleep try exercising at least 20-30 minutes every day in the afternoon and you will see the results very soon!
5. Work out to combat diseases
As mentioned before, regular exercise helps to strengthen heart muscles － it doesn’t only give you more energy, it is also preventing heart diseases, strokes and lowers blood pressure.
Physical activity also raises high-density lipoprotein levels, also known as “good” cholesterol, and lowers “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) levels. All of that improves blood flow and can decrease the risk of peripheral vascular disease.
According to a report by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation: “Regular physical activity, fitness, and exercise are critically important for the health and well being of people of all ages. Research has demonstrated that virtually all individuals can benefit from the regular physical activity, whether they participate in vigorous exercise or some type of moderate health-enhancing physical activity. Even among frail and very old adults, mobility and functioning can be improved through physical activity.” (ASPE, 2002).
As the report states, regular physical activity reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease, developing diabetes as well as colon and breast cancer. It also helps to maintain a healthy weight as well as build healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
6. Control your weight with regular exercise
Intensive and regular exercising is the key for those trying to lose weight. Combined with a proper and healthy diet it can help you to lose weight faster while keeping your skin tight, preventing it from sagging as well as allowing you to tone the muscles while getting rid of unwanted body fat.
However, if you are not overweight or even looking to lose those extra few pounds, regular physical activity will help you stay in shape and prevent weight fluctuation. If you regularly lose and gain a couple of pounds, there is no need to worry as it’s absolutely normal and is not something to be concerned about. However, if your weight fluctuations are going above five pounds up and down and you want to keep your weight steady, the best way to do so is to exercise more. Regular physical activity regulates your metabolism so you don't have to worry about counting calories all the time. Your body will do it for you.
What’s more, if you have recently lost weight and you would like to avoid the yo-yo effect, fitness is the best way to do that and avoid gaining weight. Even if you won’t be as strict on your diet as before, regular exercise will help you quickly burn those extra calories you should have avoided at lunch. As long as you keep exercising regularly and make sure you burn more than you eat, you won’t have to worry about an occasional treat or yummy dessert.
7. Boost your self-esteem
This might seem pretty straight forward － you excercise more, you lose weight, you get slim and you feel better about yourself. While for some this might be as easy as that, there is so much more to how exercising can boost your self-esteem.
Regular exercise gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Let’s face it, we are all busy, often struggling to find time to relax or meet up with friends. So when you find that inner strength and make yourself go to the gym or for a run, you can really feel proud of yourself. Most people wouldn’t bother to even try. Even if you don’t give it your absolute best or feel too tired to challenge yourself, the fact that you showed up is a reason to feel good about yourself!
Another reason why regular exercise helps us boost our self-esteem is the way we challenge ourselves when we work out. No matter how advanced you are and how often you exercise, you probably set goals for yourself. When you first start they are adjusted to your level and then step by step you get better and stronger. Remember that 1K jog that felt so long and difficult when you first started? Now you can’t imagine a day without a 5K run. 3 push-ups seemed impossible when you first started exercising, now you do 15 just to warm-up.
Challenging ourselves and looking back to see how far we managed to get thanks to our hard work and persistence, gives us the amazing feeling that we can achieve so much - which transfers to other parts of our lives. If you managed to go from 1K once a week to 5K daily then why can’t you manage that complicated project at work? Thanks to a regular workout we remind ourselves how much we are able to achieve with the right mindset and determination.
So if you were wondering if exercising is a good idea, by now you should be sure it’s the best and only way forward! It won’t magically change your life, but little by little, step by step you will notice some positive changes and feel better about yourself!