We’ve all heard it before, “Exercise is good for you because….”
Nowadays you can’t check out at the grocery store or do much of anything without being reminded that us mortal humans need to exercise. Still, we persist, procrastinate and eventually complain that we’re overweight, sick, dying, etc.
Listen. Some exercise is better than none, more exercise is generally better than less, and no exercise can be disastrous. No one is asking for you to start a rigorous daily regimen, just do something. If you need motivation, here is a list of scientifically proven health benefits that regular exercise brings.
- Longevity. People who are physically active live longer. According to a 20 year follow-up study, regular exercise reduces the risk of dying prematurely.
- New brain cell development, improved cognition and memory. Exercise stimulates the formation of new brain cells. Researchers found that the areas of the brain that are stimulated through exercise are responsible for memory and learning. For instance, older adults who engage in regular physical activity have better performances in tests implying decision-making process, memory and problem solving.
- Improved sexual function and better sex life. Regular exercise maintains or improves sex life. Physical improvements in muscle strength and tone, endurance, body composition and cardiovascular function can all enhance sexual functioning in both men and women. Researchers revealed that men who exercise regularly are less likely to have erectile dysfunction and impotence than are men who don’t exercise.
- Exercise is a powerful antidepressant. Study after study has shown that exercise promotes mental health and reduces symptoms of depression. The antidepressant effect of regular physical exercise is comparable to the potent antidepressants like Zoloft. It may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve symptoms of depression.
- Cardiovascular health. Lack of physical activity is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Regular exercising makes your heart, like any other muscle, stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort.
- Cholesterol lowering effect. Exercise itself does not burn off cholesterol like it does with fat, however, exercise favorably influences blood cholesterol levels by decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Prevention and control of diabetes. There is strong evidence from high quality studies (e.g. Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study) that moderate physical activity combined with weight loss and balanced diet can confer a 50-60% reduction in risk of developing diabetes.
- Blood pressure lowering. The way in which exercise can cause a reduction in blood pressure is unclear, but all forms of exercise seem to be effective in reducing blood pressure. Aerobic exercise appears to have a slightly greater effect on blood pressure in hypertensive individuals than in individuals without hypertension.
- Reduced risk of stroke. Research data indicates that moderate and high levels of physical activity may reduce the risk of total, ischemic, and hemorrhagic strokes.
- Weight control. Regular exercise helps to reach and maintain a healthy weight. If you take in more calories than needed in a day, exercise offsets a caloric overload and controls body weight. It speeds the rate of energy use, resulting in increased metabolism. When metabolism increases through exercise, you will maintain the faster rate for longer periods of a day.
- Muscle strength. Health studies repeatedly show that strength training increases muscle strength and mass and decreases fat tissue.
- Bone strength. An active lifestyle benefits bone density. Regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation, delays bone loss and may protect against osteoporosis – form of bone loss associated with aging.
- Better night sleep. If you suffer from poor sleep, daily exercise can make the difference. The natural dip in body temperature five to six hours after exercise may help to fall asleep.