8 Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

Fit girl abseiling

Nowadays, the benefits of exercise are better-documented than ever before. Thousands of recent studies have illustrated the many upsides of physical activity, with scientists asserting that a regular exercise routine is tantamount to a DIY elixir vitae.

We’ve brought all the science together below to let you know that exercise is:

A Risk Manager

Whether intensive weight-training or a gentle walk around the block, getting a sweat on is a preventative measure like no other. Exercising helps to control weight and prevent obesity (and related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes), and insulates against muscle and back strain.  Exercising has also been proven to contribute to cancer resistance and will significantly lower your risk of having a stroke.

A Confidence Booster

A sedentary lifestyle often correlates with low self-esteem, a poor body image, and higher levels of depression. An active lifestyle spells the opposite, meaning that exercise has been shown to increase one’s body confidence and self-image.

What leaves you feeling great is not necessarily even the weight loss, but rather the endorphin hit – the ability to wear what you haven’t felt confident enough to for a while, or just the feeling of being out and about, enjoying life to the fullest.

An Intellect Sharpener

As if exercise couldn’t get better, it also boosts self-confidence, brain power, concentration and memory. Exercise increases cell production in the most vital zone of the brain where memory and learning are concerned: the hippocampus. Working out also stimulates BNDF (also known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a brain-originating protein which sharpens reactions.

 

Yoga Joan at the Beach

Photo Credit: Farsai C via Unsplash under License

An Addiction Controller

Whether you’re struggling to break up with caffeine, alcohol, or drugs, all addictions are sure to involve dopamine, often called the “reward chemical”. Since the key to beating addiction is to replace the offending substance with another product or activity that has the same effect, exercise is an obvious addiction treatment. Just 30 minutes of exercise per day can lead to a reduction in cravings and will also help to soothe any sleeping issues you may have.

A Strengthener

Your best bet to possess a strong body is to cultivate it with exercise. Every type of exercise will strengthen muscle and bone density – it just depends what area of the body you want to target most.

Workout sessions involving weights and purpose-built exercises like push-ups and squats will build muscle directly, while rubber bands are great for strengthening and stretching out your limbs at the same time.

A Mood Improver

We humans weren’t made to sit still – which is reflected in the power of exercise to lift our mood. Even a simple stroll outside can do wonders for those of us who spend a large portion of the day sitting in offices or institutions. Aim for midday, a time which scientists have pinpointed as the ideal workout time according to the body’s natural rhythms.

If you often suffer from anxiety, you might also consider injecting some high-intensity exercise into your routine. High-intensity workouts give your body “safe” shocks which help to build resistance to anxiety.

 

Two girls core workout

Photo Credit: Bruce Mars via Unsplash under License

An Age Defyer

Loss of brain power may begin around the age of 45, and physical fitness often wanes earlier than this. However, exercise is a powerful prevention method to both cognitive and physical decline. Studies have shown that people who exercise for just half an hour a day may live up to 7 years longer than those who don’t.  Sustained exercise can also protect your joints against osteoporosis, the fragile-bone condition commonly associated with older age.

A Stress Reliever

Feed yourself with nourishing foods that are proven to strengthen your body and keep your immune system strong. When you combine exercises that you love with a healthy, balanced diet, your body will have the energy to build stronger muscles.

It’s natural to feel more inclined to stay indoors and feed on warm, comforting food during the winter, but when warmer weather arrives each year, take the opportunity to ease into a regular exercise routine. Choose vitamins and natural food supplements that will strengthen and uphold your body’s existing ability to detoxify, cleansing your winter blues and getting you ready for another year of fun workouts.

You may know that exercise stimulates endorphins, but physical activity also increases the body’s production of chemicals like norepinephrine, which helps the brain with stress management – thus counteracting the effects of high cortisol. Stress be gone!

Setting aside just a short time to exercise each day will boost your confidence, strengthen your body, lower your risk of major diseases, and keep you alert and positive. In short, exercising is a great ‘addiction’ and one of the best presents you can give your future self.

Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand who has a passion for healthy living and fitness. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her sweating it out in the gym, practicing yoga or checking out the latest fitness trends. You can find more of Harper’s work on Tumblr.

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