The NHS have called exercise “the miracle cure we’ve all been waiting for”. And that’s certainly no exaggeration. Exercise is a universally-celebrated tool for living a healthier and happier life. And it’s arguably the cheapest and most accessible way to maintain good mental and physical health.
But let’s face it, exercise can be hard. Not just physically, but mentally. Sometimes it’s a challenge just to put on our gear and get to the gym. But it’s important to always remember why exercise is so beneficial, and why, in the end, it’s absolutely worth persevering with.
So, with that in mind, here are 9 health benefits of regular exercise to help keep you motivated and inspired!
Regular exercise may make you happier by decreasing feelings of depression and anxiety. It affects the part of the brain that regulates stress and anxiety. And, over time, can change it in such a way that can serve to lift your general mood.
Exercise can also increase the production of endorphins, and endorphins are famous for their ability to increase positive emotions and make us feel good.
Studies have even shown that when people who work out regularly are asked to stop exercising for a short period of time, they experience an increase in negative emotions.
As well as this, exercise can help with self-esteem. This is because more exercise leads to better health and a better body, which, in turn, gives you more self-confidence.
Exercise feeds muscle tissues with oxygen and nutrients, and helps the cardiovascular system function properly. This means you’ll have much more strength and endurance to tackle daily tasks. And your lung capacity and heart health can also increase. So you may find yourself less out-of-breath when moving about, walking up hills, and climbing stairs!
Promotes better sleep
Poor sleep is a very difficult problem to overcome. Many people spend years of their lives unable to get a full, undisturbed night’s rest. But exercise could provide a lasting and effective remedy.
It’s thought that regular exercise can have a direct impact on how we sleep. This is partly due to the energy depletion and increased body temperature that occurs whilst exercising. And one particular study found that 2 and-a-half hours’ worth of exercise can increase sleep quality by 65%.
And for anyone who struggles to sleep as a result of anxiety, the mood-enhancing effects of exercise (as mentioned above) could provide an indirect antidote.
Lowers risk of disease
By now it’s widely known that exercise is a powerful preventative measure against many types of physical and mental illness.
According to the NHS, people who participate in regular physical activity have:
– up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
– up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
– up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis.
– a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults).
– up to a 30% lower risk of depression.
– up to a 30% lower risk of dementia.
Boosts brain power
One of the major mental benefits of exercise, especially for older individuals, is its positive effects on brain and memory function. These effects include the stimulation of chemicals that affect brain cell health, and the promotion of new blood vessel growth in the brain.
Also, researchers have found that regular aerobic exercise actually increases the size of the hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with learning and verbal memory).
As a final word on the matter, here’s an extract from an article on brain health from the Alzheimer’s Organisation:
Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity.
It’s good for muscles and bones
Physical activity helps to stimulate muscle and bone growth. This can be incredibly beneficial in reducing muscle loss and maintaining strength into old age, as muscle mass tends to decrease the older we get.
Strength training and weight-lifting exercises are also listed amongst the many natural ways to build and maintain healthy bones.
When it comes to losing weight or preventing weight gain, regular exercise can be an amazing tool. Physical activity burns calories. So the more active we are, and the more intense the activity, the more calories we burn.
And the best news is that even the gentlest forms of exercise contribute towards our daily calorie count. So for anyone motivated by weight loss, or simply trying to maintain a weight, regular and consistent exercise should be a key component of your regime.
Of course, it’s also important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet alongside a regular exercise routine for optimal results.
Can improve your social life
Joining a sports team, a running club, or simply attending exercise classes at the gym, can all greatly improve your social life. You can meet like-minded people and make new friends, all whilst engaging in fun and health-promoting activities.
You may be wondering how more social interactions can be good for your health. But according to Age UK, participating in meaningful social activities “may help people maintain their thinking skills better in later life and slow down cognitive decline”.
It’s even believed that increased socialisation may increase lifespan and improve physical health. So if you’ve been putting off joining the local badminton club, go an sign up at the next opportunity!
These days, of course, face-to-face socialisation isn’t as straightforward as it once was. But even signing up to a Zoom yoga class, or taking part in livestream workouts, can give us a feeling of being connected to others.
Keeps hearts healthy
Johns Hopkins Medicine listed regular exercise as one of four lifestyle factors (the others being maintaining a normal weight, not smoking, and adopting a Mediterranean-style diet) that reduced the chance of death from all causes by 80% over an eight-year period during which more than 6,200 subjects were tracked.
According to Bupa, regular exercise can reduce your chance of cardiovascular disease by a third. And for reducing your risk they advise walking “whenever possible… If you already walk, try upping the pace. Weather and work permitting, go for a walk at lunchtime. Even a quick walk at a brisk pace is better than sitting by your desk.”
The way to a healthier life
The nine benefits mentioned in this article are just a handful of many. And as time goes by, more and more research findings are reinforcing the notion that regular exercise really does have a major impact on our long-term health and wellbeing.
So no matter how old you are or how much previous experience you have, exercise can change your life for the better.