10 Benefits of Exercise, and How to Start Doing It
“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”
You’ve heard it literally zillions times before: Working out is good for you and sitting around on your ass watching TV is bad.
But besides the obvious fact that it helps you burn that fat and look better, why is it so good for you anyway?
The merits of exercise — from preventing chronic health conditions to boosting confidence and self-esteem — are hard to ignore. And the benefits are yours for the taking, regardless of age, sex or physical ability.
Need more convincing? Check out these ten specific ways exercise can improve your life. Read this list, and wonder why isn’t everyone taking advantage of what fitness has to offer.
1. Increases energy and endurance.
When your body is working at peak efficiency, your energy levels soar! How many times have you skipped the gym because you were “too tired” to exercise? But when you have hauled your ass there despite your fatigue, haven’t you felt much more awake and energized afterward? People who exercise regularly have more energy, strength and endurance to get through their daily activities than non-exercisers. In fact, you will likely notice this feeling of increased energy and vitality a few short weeks after you start to exercise on a regular basis.
2. Slows the aging process.
Most people lose 10 percent of their aerobic capacity each year after the age of 30. However, regular exercise can actually make you more aerobically fit as you get older. Working out also improves skin and muscle tone, increases flexibility and reduces the risk of many age-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and stroke.
3. Strengthens and boosts your immune system.
Various researches have shown that exercising improves immune function. In teenage and adult men, exercise is a powerful natural immune cell stimulator. In older men, the functioning of the immune system progressively declines, which can lead to an increased risk of infectious diseases and a reduced response to vaccination. The good news is that regular, moderate cardio workouts, such as jogging, walking or cycling, can partly offset the immune function decline in healthy older men.
4. Reduces stress, depression and anxiety.
Exercise right after work is the perfect natural therapy that can change your mood. It reduces stress and anxiety by diminishing electrical activity in tense muscles as soon as you finish your workout, which makes you less hyperactive and jittery. In addition, your body releases more endorphins for an hour and a half to two hours after your workout, which boosts your mood and promotes relaxation. Another benefit of physical activity is that it provides you with the motivation to improve your diet, and proper nutrition reduces stress. There is even evidence that regular exercise can aid in treating clinical depression.
5. Improves confidence.
Gaining control of your body size and weight through fitness is an amazing way to increase self-esteem. Ask yourself this simple question: Do I feel better about myself when I’m sprawled out on the couch eating a bag of potato chips or after a great workout at the gym? Duh. If you’re out of shape and start working out, you’ll gain muscle tone, strength, stamina, and you’ll feel better emotionally. This will inevitably give your self-image and self-confidence a boost, which is often one of the best motivators to stick to a workout program.
6. Builds and maintains healthy muscles, bones & joints.
As you get older, your bones lose density (mass), your joints become stiffer and less flexible, and your lean body mass decreases. Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to slow or prevent muscle, joint and bone problems. A moderate to vigorous workout program can help you maintain strength and flexibility into your golden years.
7. Helps you sleep better.
Exercise is sometimes the key to better sleep. And although it may seem like common sense knowledge, studies linking regular exercise and improved sleep patterns are fairly recent. These studies have shown that moderate to vigorous 20- to 30-minute workouts three to four times a week help you sleep better. However, you should exercise in the morning or afternoon rather than close to bedtime, or you may find yourself too energized to sleep.
Being physically active helps you fall and stay asleep more easily, and it increases the amount of time you spend in the deepest stage of sleep. It also improves the quality of your sleep by making the transitions between its cycles smoother and more regular.
8. Can put the spark back into your sex life.
Are you too tired to have sex? Exercise to the rescue. It’s a fact: Regular exercise can increase sexual drive, activity and satisfaction. Physical endurance and muscle tone improve sexual functioning, and exercise jump-starts the sympathetic nervous system, which increases blood flow to the genital area. The good news is that even low levels of exercise help keep you functioning properly; in fact, you can significantly lower your risk of erectile dysfunction by burning only 200 calories a day, the equivalent of walking briskly for about two miles.
Short bouts of intense exercise increase T-levels, which can stimulate sexual desire. But gym rats beware; too much exercise can reduce testosterone and other male hormone levels, which can lead to a decrease in libido. Finally, don’t stop as you get older; men over 50 who exercise regularly have a 30 percent lower risk of impotence than those who don’t.
9. Improves mental acuity.
Many studies have proven that people who exercise on a regular basis have better memory, reaction time and concentration than their sedentary counterparts. They also stand a much better chance of avoiding such diseases as Alzheimer’s and senility. And it doesn’t take much: walking for 45 minutes three times a week is enough to improve your degree of mental sharpness. Aerobic activity stimulates the middle-frontal and superior parietal regions of the brain, which are associated with attention and keeping goals in mind.
10. Reduces the risk of many diseases.
The best reason of all to exercise regularly is that it reduces your risk of many serious and potentially deadly diseases, such as heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure or hypertension, breast cancer, osteoporosis and colon cancer, stroke, heart attack, and arthritis. Exercise may also help prevent, or be effective in treating, some mental illnesses, such as depression.
Do you find yourself making resolutions about exercising to get in shape, but never seem to stick to the resolution? The following “how-to” can help you with some ideas to provide the little nudge you need.
STEPS TO TAKE
Do something you enjoy; if you like it you’ll keep at it. Not all workouts are at a gym: try biking, inline skating, rowing, swimming, hockey, a rugby team, even dancing. Enjoyment is the key to sticking with it. Make a commitment. Don’t just make a mental promise to yourself. Get a journal. Write down what you want to accomplish and a time frame for reaching your goals. Make reasonable goals for yourself. If you’ve never worked out before or haven’t worked out in a long time, don’t expect you’ll be able to exercise for an hour a day, six days a week. Try starting out with three, 30 minute sessions of aerobic exercise per week. Then after two weeks, incorporate two weight lifting sessions in between your aerobic days. Tell people what you’re doing! Tell your husband, wife, sister, friends — anyone. We always do better when we think someone else is watching! Don’t be obnoxious and remind everyone all the time, but let your close friends and relatives know about your goals. Ask them to encourage you once in a while. Chart your progress in your journal. You can weigh yourself, although weight is not always an accurate view of fitness. Record the way your body feels after workouts and take body measurements. If you don’t know what kind of exercise is best for you, ask a personal trainer. You don’t necessarily have to pay someone to exercise with you every week, but you can hire someone to help you draw up a plan. Joining a gym can be helpful because monetary commitments always seem a bit more binding. If your gym has group fitness classes, the classes can help you mix things up a bit. Try to incorporate a healthy diet with your exercise routine. Eating foods high in nutrients and low in fats and empty calories certainly makes you feel better before and after workouts. Drink water! Read 10 Reasons To Drink More Water. On the days you exercise, you should drink even more than the suggested amount. Start small, then build up from there! Maybe start with doing 10 minutes of exercise, every other day. There is no need to make a giant commitment right away. You’ll be surprised how starting small slowly winds its way up to a daily exercise regimen, and healthy body! Don’t worry if you’re not seeing results. It normally takes about 8 weeks for results to really kick in visually. Remember; you can’t do it all in one sitting. Routine is the key!
Consult your doctor before starting any new workout regimen, especially if you’ve had heart or lung related illness in the past. If you feel faint, dizzy, sick, or in pain while working out — stop! Missing one workout is better than missing the rest of your life! Consult your doctor if you are severely overweight, obese, or suffer from asthma. If you are starting to gain weight, don’t worry — muscle weighs three times more than fat. If you’re on track you’ll be building more muscle. Good ways to check that you are gaining muscle and losing fat is by taking and recording body measurements, noticing how the fit of your clothes changes and the way your body is becoming firmer and better toned.
You’ve been hearing it for years — now you know exactly why working out is good for you. If you want to feel better, have more energy and perhaps even live longer, stop making excuses and start integrating regular exercise into your weekly routine.
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