We all know that exercise is good for us in many ways. It helps us to manage our weight, burn fat, build strength and endurance, and ultimately helps us to lead longer, healthier lives. But there are also lots of hidden benefits to working out that you may not be as aware of. For example, a recent study conducted by the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University showed that active people take 25 to 50% less sick days per year than those who are sedentary, and they recover from illnesses such as the common cold an average of three days faster than their inactive counterparts. And that’s not all; exercise has been found to reduce the risk of other diseases such as Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer, and has also been found to reduce symptoms of depression. So if you’re in need of a little extra push to hit the gym this post-holiday week, here are 9 more reasons why you should.
1. Longer Life:
While most people know that exercise helps to combat heart related illnesses and diabetes, it has also been discovered to combat the ongoing damage done to cells in the body over time, which can contribute to other chronic diseases. Regular activity strengthens the immune system, which helps the body to ward off both serious and common ailments. Even people who are not considered to be overweight should be working out for this reason. A survey conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine found that only 4 out of 10 doctors talk about exercising for longevity with their patients, but it is important that people know that they should be working out not just for weight management, but for a longer life as well. Guidelines developed by the Department of Health and Human Services suggest 2 1/2 hours of moderate physical activity or 1 1/4 hours of vigorous activity per week to get the benefits.
2. Sexier Skin:
Circulation is increased during exercise, which helps blood to deliver nutrients to the skin cells and remove toxins such as free radicals. This helps to rid the skin of impurities and give you that healthy glow. Just be sure to care for your skin properly during your workout by using sunscreen if exercising outdoors and washing your face post-workout to keep sweat from clogging your pores.
3. A Sunnier Disposition:
You’ve probably heard that exercise releases endorphins, the brain’s “feel-good” chemical, but it can even alleviate symptoms among those who suffer from depression. Studies have proven that clinically depressed people who began an exercise regimen began to feel a significant drop in their symptoms without the use of anti-depressants.
Exercise also decreases the physical and mental symptoms of stress, which can greatly improve your mood. While working out, the hormone norepinephrine is released, which moderates the brain’s response to stress, helping you to stay positive under pressure.
Finally, exercise can give your self-esteem a boost. Regardless of your weight, size, or how recently you started a new fitness routine, working out improves your perception of your own attractiveness. And when we feel like we look good, we tend to feel good too.
4. A Brain Boost:
Regular physical activity actually increases cell production in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is the part responsible for learning and memory. Studies in children have discovered that kids who are more active tend to do better in school, and this finding translates to adults too, especially later on in life. Exercise can help prevent cognitive decline and keep our minds sharp as we age. It can even help prevent cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
5. Productivity Power:
Along with the mental benefits of exercise like reduced stress and mental sharpness, increased productivity is another great result of physical fitness. Workers who exercise regularly are proven to be more productive and have more energy throughout the day than their less active co-workers. They’re also more creative; exercise has been found to increase creativity for up to tw0 hours post-workout. Who needs a better reason to hit the gym during lunch today?!
6. A More…Regular Schedule:
It sounds weird (and kind of gross!) but physical activity increases contractions in the intestinal walls, which in turn helps move things along the intestinal tract more quickly, keeping you more regular and helping to prevent constipation and the stomachaches and bloating that goes along with it.
He never misses a workout!
7. A Sound Sleep:
Like diet and exercise, sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. For many Americans however, falling asleep and staying asleep can be a struggle, especially with busy schedules and daily to-do lists getting in the way. As part of a study conducted at Northwestern University, participants were asked to rate their quality of sleep before beginning an exercise regimen and then again after they began working out regularly. The ratings went from poor quality of sleep to good quality in almost all of the participants, and they also reported lower levels of drowsiness during the day. Exercise also helps reduce stress levels, which in turn can help you to clear your mind when it’s time to hit the sheets.
8. Healthier Habits:
After a serious sweat session at the gym, you’re not likely to head straight to McDonald’s for a double cheeseburger and fries, right? After all, who would want to undo all that hard work? When you exercise, you tend to feel healthier, and in turn you want to do other healthy things such as eating better and watching your portion sizes. It’s true that diet and exercise need to go hand in hand, but it’s so much easier to get your diet on track when you’re logging in quality time at the gym.
9. New Friends:
It’s always great to meet new people, and joining a fitness class or boot camp can be a great way to meet others with similar interests in weight loss and fitness. By having people to talk to about your goals, share healthy recipes, and hold you accountable to come to the classes, you’ll be more likely to stick with a program and you’ll have a few new friends to boot. The goal at Firefighter Fitness is to create a community of people who can help each other reach their goals, and have fun doing it!