I have heard a lot of people say, “I love my body the way it is; I don’t want to lose weight.” That’s alright: it is good to be comfortable in your skin. Working out is not just about losing weight or achieving that bikini body. From being happier to a longer life span, regular exercise is paramount to living a healthy and balanced life.
While most of us are aiming for maximum calorie burn at the gym, there are numerous other physical and psychological benefits to exercise. When losing weight, the calories you burn must be greater than the calories you take in.
While it’s important to understand calories and portions in food, it can be discouraging to focus on how few calories are burned through exercise. The good news for you is that the benefits of exercise go beyond the calorie burn.
Exercise is not limited to ladies alone, which is why we hear men talk about hitting the gym because they are getting out of shape. To be honest, we will always admire those who look good in anything they wear because they are in shape but besides the fact that exercise helps you burn off calories, tone down that bloated tummy, and make you look buff for your partner, these are the top 10 reasons why you need to workout.
1. It helps with addiction control
The brain releases dopamine, which responds to any form of pleasure, be it sex, drugs, alcohol or food. Some people become addicted to dopamine and substances that produce it—especially drugs or alcohol.
Regular exercise can help in this addiction recovery as it effectively distracts you, making you de-prioritize your cravings. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help to boost your immune system.
2. Your risk of diabetes goes down
Within one week of your regular exercise, your sensitivity to insulin becomes greater and that, in turn, lowers your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Also, exercise can decrease your stroke risk; given that two of the greatest risk factors for strokes are high blood pressure and heart disease, exercise with its benefits of a stronger heart and better circulation is crucial.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week for optimum health, though you should always check with your doctor if you have any health concerns before beginning any exercise program.
3. You’re shedding belly fat
When you do one month of regular exercise, your body ditches those excess fats and gains muscle. An Australian study shows that overweight people who took part in a four-week program of moderate exercise reduced abdominal fat by 12 percent.
By shedding belly fat, you are in shape and feel good about yourself. “You never regret a workout” is a popular motivational saying, and it is true! A combination of our physical gains (more pronounced muscles, less body fat) and improved mood helps us feel better about ourselves.
4. Your risk of cancer is reduced
A study has also shown that more than 15,000 women who workout and are aerobically fit were 55 percent less likely to die from breast cancer than those who didn’t workout.
Women who are moderately fit had a 33 percent lower risk of developing the disease. Exercise can also help to protect against ovarian, lung and endometrial cancer, researchers said. McCleary says, “Inactivity is associated with increased risk for a number of cancers, including colon and breast cancer.” Exercise has been linked with a decreased risk of developing cancer, death from cancer, and recurrence of certain cancers.
He also said that the suggested mechanisms at play include exercise’s beneficial effects on immune and surveillance systems that detect and kill cancer cells, improved cardio-respiratory status, improved hormonal profiles, weight maintenance and other beneficial metabolic effects.
5. The aging process is slowed
Fitness lovers have better telomeres; the DNA that bookends our chromosomes and protects them from damage can also slow the aging process. Also, as people enter their forties and fifties, muscle mass starts to decline because of aging and, in some cases, decreased activity levels. Muscular atrophy can also occur because of joint pain. As we age, it’s important to increase or maintain muscle mass through strength training, not only because it helps burn calories, but also because muscle mass is essential for strength and balance.
6. Exercise helps you to sleep better
Working out helps you fall and stay asleep more easily and 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 cycles smoother and more regular. Exercise resets the circadian rhythm. After a workout, the body’s internal temperature returns to baseline and signals the brain that it’s time for sleep. Try to give yourself at least one or two hours to wind down post-exercise otherwise those endorphins remain too energized to sleep.
7. It improves your mood
Had a stressful day or need an emotional lift? Stress can be caused by elevated levels of the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Exercise lowers these hormones and increases serotonin, otherwise known as the happy hormone, which helps to reduce stress. A workout at home/gym or a 30-minute walk will help. Workout stimulates your brain’s chemicals to lighten your mood and make you happier.
Exercise can help to keep depression and anxiety at bay. You’ll feel better about yourself and your appearance when you exercise regularly. Working out boosts your self-confidence and increases your self-esteem. Coping with mood disorders that are often associated with stress can be a bit easier when you are in good physical shape.
8. It improves your memory
Constantly misplacing your keys or struggling to recall names? Exercise can help to jog your memory. A 2014 study found that aerobic exercise, like running or swimming, boosts the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, in women with a recognized risk factor for dementia. Research has shown that, as we age, exercise may be able to keep our brains healthy.
At the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, two studies that were presented showed that older people who exercised more had significantly less cognitive impairment than those who did not spend time working out. Exercise is good for the brain because it increases blood being pumped to the brain and encourages higher levels of healthy chemicals called brain-derived nerve growth factors.
9. It improves sexual performance and restores libido
Regular exercise can improve sexual drive, activity, and satisfaction. Physical endurance and muscle tone improve sexual functioning, and exercise jumpstarts the sympathetic nervous system, which increases blood flow to the genital area. Consistent workouts can boost your sex life.
Stacy Berman, NASM, ACE, owner and founder of Stacy’s Boot camp in New York City says, “When a person is aroused, blood flow rushes to the genitals.” The better the circulation, the less likely one is to suffer from sexual dysfunction.
Exercise can improve mood, boost confidence and self-esteem, all of which can lead to more success in the bedroom. Short bouts of intense exercise increase testosterone levels, which can stimulate sexual desire but be aware that too much exercise can also reduce testosterone and other male hormone levels, which can lead to a decrease in libido.
10. It can alleviate anxiety
Some people prefer having a warm bubble bath to relieve anxiety, but the warm and fuzzy chemicals released during and after a 20-minutes jog can help people with anxiety disorders to calm down.
Working out can have positive effects far beyond the gym: gaining self-confidence, thinking smartly and beautiful skin are some of the motivations to make time for exercise on a regular basis. Yoga and Pilates also focus on proper breathing, which can be a coping mechanism for short- and long-term stress.
Another benefit of the increase in blood flow exercise is beautiful skin. Oxygen and nutrients are carried to cells throughout the body and waste products are moved out. “It’s like cleansing the skin from the inside,” Berman says. Skin inflammation can occur when you are stressed, so relieving stress through a workout might help to clear any skin blemishes as well. “This is easily seen when one compares the glowing skin of a conditioned athlete versus the skin of a stressed out, depressed person,” says McCleary.
Exercising for just 10 minutes a day or 75 minutes a week can earn you an extra 1.8 years so next time you think you’re too busy, think about it this way: You’re shaving off years of life. Is sitting down and watching telly really worth it?
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you know that exercise should be an essential part of your routine. Many researchers have shown that working out can boost other aspects of your health; exercise, even without weight loss, builds stronger muscles and bones to encourage better brain health and digestion and may reduce the risk of certain diseases. It also enhances many factors that are indirectly beneficial, such as increased hydration and better dietary intake. So, there’s really no excuse not to be exercising!