“Healthy” and “fit” are the two things everyone wants to be, yet no one wants to put in the time and energy. Did you know that making the switch to a healthier lifestyle actually has more benefits than just the way you look? It can make you feel better inside and out, increase overall internal health function and allow you to perform at your best. But you actually have to put in the effort day in and day out, for an extended period of time, to reach these ever so talked about “health benefits”. But what people don’t know is that it is not as complex as they think. You don’t have to do 60 minutes of cardio and 1-hour weight training session a-day to reap the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. It is more so about balance, and what works for you. If you aren’t convinced yet, today we are going to talk about a few more side effects of getting in shape and living your best life!
Improved Mood and Well-Being
Exercise releases happy hormones, plain and simple. When we put the body under stress, an exercise, in this case, the brain releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins trigger a response by the nervous system that increases our heart rate and can give us the “high” or “happy” feeling people get after an intense workout. These chemicals being released not only leave you feeling happy and content, they can also reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. How cool is that?! Researchers have also revealed that exercising can create new neurons in the brain that release the GABA neurotransmitter (responsible for regulating anxiety) and therefore mimics the action of several anti-anxiety medications. If one of the main side-effects of getting in shape is boosting mood and “feel good” hormones, count me in!
Better Sleep Patterns
Who doesn’t love to fall asleep fast and stay asleep all night…no one? Didn’t think so. Exercise can actually promote better sleep patterns because of total energy expenditure during the day, after exercise! Working out not only burns calories during the activity but also boots your metabolism to continue to burn calories all day in hopes of recovering faster. Sleep better may also be because the body-heating effects of exercise. When we exercise, it triggers an increase in body temperature that then drops after exercise and may promote falling asleep. This does not mean you will constantly sleep better or longer every night. Studies have shown that in patients diagnosed with insomnia, it can take up to 4 months to begin reaping the sleep benefits of exercise. Patients in the study reported sleeping 45-60 minutes longer and with less disruptions after beginning a regular workout routine. Like all results with exercise, it takes time but it is totally worth it.
Adds Years to Your Years
Does it scare anyone else that the average human lifespan is 79 years? SEVENTY-NINE YEARS OLD, let that sink in for a minute. When I was little, I always wonder what it would be like to live to 100 and how awesome that would be. Now, I think about all the things I want to accomplish, and now I supposedly only have 79 years to do so when I thought I had 100. Well, if you think like I do, you will be relieved to know that exercise can actually add years to your life.
Studies done by Harvard Medical students found that just 75-minutes of brisk walking a week can add 2 years to your life. TWO WHOLE YEARS, imagine what else you can accomplish in that time. And that brisk walking alone can give us those benefits, I wonder what resistance training can do. Well, if you must know, resistance training has been known to reverse aging in skeletal muscle. Which means resistance training 30 minutes, 2 times a week will likely add on not only lean body mass but also several years onto your life. There are many other benefits of resistance training which can be found in an earlier blog here.
Lower Risk of Chronic Disease
We have all heard it before, exercise decreases your risk of chronic or life-threatening diseases. Cardiovascular exercise can improve your heart health by making it beat faster to pump blood to the rest of your body. This means that because it is working so hard, you are actually strengthening the heart (since it is a muscle) and therefore decrease the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that people with current heart problems tolerate interval training well. Exercise can also lower the risk of diabetes because it improves insulin sensitivity which effectively lowers your blood sugar levels. Sounds like a win, win to me! Strength training has been known to help those with osteoporosis or arthritis as well. This is because weight training increases bone density because of the load it puts on not only the muscles but the bones as well. It also helps increase muscle strength in arthritic joints as well as decreasing stiffness. If what I chose to do on a daily basis, whether it be walking outside or lifting weights in the gym, is going to help prevent against diseases in my future….you can bet I am going to do it! And you should too. Exercise 30 minutes today, or increase the risk of possible heart disease or injury/aches/pains….you make the decision.
Body Systems Functioning Properly
The body has the ability to self-heal, self-repairing and self-restoring, which are all capable because of nutrition, exercise, sleep, and hydration. How incredible is that? The body works as one unit. If everything is balanced within us and around us (sleep, stress, diet etc.) then the body is going to be functioning at its highest potential. But as soon as one tire goes flat, we begin to slow down and suffer the consequences. We have the potential to be a Porsche, but if we don’t keep all tanks full, we break down and rust. If we are only filling a few tanks, or just barely getting by, we turn out to be an old busted up Honda. Well, lucky for you, exercise is the engine. And if we keep the engine running properly, and keep fuel (nutrition) in the tank, it will be smooth driving. Exercise helps all body systems function at their highest potential such as the digestive system, immune system, endocrine system and respiratory system. Exercise helps the digestive system by moving the intestinal muscles so it is easier for the contents to move through the colon. It helps the endocrine system by increasing the amount of hormones circulating through our system and therefore improving organ function. If our hormones are not aligned, we cannot optimally perform from day to day. Exercise helps to boost the immune system so we can more easily fight against bacteria and invaders that cause us to get sick. And we already know how it benefits the respiratory system…helping the lungs function more efficiently and therefore increases our endurance!
Exercise is the best thing you can do for your health. There are zero negative side effects, yet so many beneficial ones. It does not take hours of exercise a day or extreme measures to experience the side effects. If simply exercises 150 minutes per week can yield such incredible results and side effects, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start reaping the benefits of an activity that is going to make you feel amazing!