January sees an influx of people hitting the gym or pounding the pavement to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle and tone up. This article examines why maintaining those good intentions should last well beyond February, when most of those resolutions can fall by the wayside.
The benefits of regular exercise go beyond a healthy body, contributing significantly to mental and social areas of our lives and impacting in ways we never imagined. Studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit your physical and mental health and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.
The physical results of regular and consistent exercise have been highly documented and include well-known benefits such as:
· Exercise contributes significantly to improving skills and agility.
· Exercise helps to protect the whole body shape because it increases the flexibility and overall muscle strength.
· Exercise is known to improve neuromuscular coordination and helps develop a stronger skeletal structure and posture.
· Exercise can strengthen the immune system and also improves various digestive processes.
· Exercise has been shown as advantageous in the management of a variety of disorders, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and many more.
Whilst these physical benefits should be reason enough, it is the other side effects which can be lesser known, though no less important. Working out can have positive effects far beyond the gym (and beach season). Gaining self-confidence, getting out of a funk, and even thinking smarter are some of the motivations to take time for exercise on a regular basis.
One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage both physical and mental stress. Exercise increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. Working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood as well as promoting sleep.
Prevent Cognitive Decline
While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia, they can help to boost the brain to cope with the cognitive decline that begins after age 45. Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
Be a smarty (spandex) Pants
Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning. So get exercising before that next game of Scrabble.
Research shows that employees who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout.
Have you noticed the difference in your sleep after a long run or weight session at the gym? For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temperature drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals to the body that it’s time to sleep.
So if you are already thinking of ditching the trainers then perhaps the thought of a stronger, calmer, less anxious, smarter, leaner, more productive and confident you, will be enough to motivate you to exercise regularly.
Top tips to stay on track:
· Choose your exercise carefully. If you hate the activity, you won't stick with it.
· Put your exercise plans into your calendar like any other meeting and don't get pulled off track.
· Make it a habit and a part of your day just as you would your morning cup of coffee.
· Making behavioural changes is difficult. Set realistic goals for yourself, and view your setbacks as an opportunity to create better systems to prevent future lapses. (See SMART goal setting)