We’ve all heard that exercise is good for us, but do you know how good?
Regular exercise helps keep our bodies healthy and our minds sharp. Everyone can benefit from exercise, regardless of age, sex or physical ability.
Here are 6 scientifically proven benefits to moving your body.
1. More Energy
Regular physical movement can increase your energy levels. This is true even for people with persistent fatigue and those suffering from medical conditions.
This study found that six weeks of regular exercise reduced feelings of fatigue for 36 healthy people who had reported persistent fatigue.
You might be thinking to yourself: “but I’m too tired to exercise!”
Not only has exercise been proven to increase one’s energy levels and decrease fatigue, but you don’t necessarily have to workout strenuously to reap these benefits. The study randomly assigned participants to a moderate-intensity exercise group, or a low-intensity exercise group. Remarkably, both groups reported similar improvements in energy. The changes in feelings of energy and fatigue were independent of changes in aerobic fitness. In other words, you don’t have to kill yourself at the gym to benefit from exercise. Gentle, low-intensity movement like yoga, swimming, walking, all help to reduce fatigue and boost energy levels.
2. Better sleep
According to the Mayo Clinic, regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep.
One study found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week can provide up to a 65% improvement in sleep quality.
Another study showed that 16 weeks of physical activity increased sleep quality and helped 17 people with insomnia sleep longer and more deeply than the control group. It also helped them feel more energized during the day.
3. A Happier You
Exercising regularly can improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Exercise produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. It can also increase the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which reduce feelings of depression.
Additionally, exercise can increase the production of endorphins, which are known to help produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain. In this way, exercise can also help those suffering from chronic pain conditions.
Similar to energy rewards, the intensity level of your workout does not matter. It seems your mood benefits from exercise no matter the intensity of physical activity you engage in. A study with 24 women, who had been diagnosed with depression, showed that exercise of any intensity significantly decreased feelings of depression.
4. Enhanced Brain Health
Regular exercise improves brain function and enhances memory and thinking skills. Exercise increases your heart rate, which improves blood flow to the brain. This also stimulates the production of hormones which promotes the growth of new brain cells.
Lastly, exercise has been shown to protect mental function in older adults, and reduce changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.
5. Promotes Lymphatic Flow
Your lymphatic system is like the sewage system of your body. Inside your body there are trillions of cells, and each cell produces waste. Your lymphatic system helps carry this cellular waste out of your body via the kidneys.
Unlike your vascular system which uses the heart as a pump, your lymphatic system does not have a pump. Meaning, the contraction of your muscles becomes the pump that helps the lymphatic fluid get around your body. Your lymphatic system needs physical movement in order to passage and flush waste out of the body.
Regular exercise stimulates lymphatic flow, which allows the body to eliminate toxins and waste more efficiently. This potentially prevents infections, and other diseases. Without movement, the lymphatic system can become congested and stagnant. Regular exercise promotes lymphatic flow, which benefits immune function and supports overall well-being.
6. And much much more….
The physical, mental and emotional benefits of exercise are vast and undeniable. The health benefits go beyond the scope of this blog. Exercise also reduces your risk of chronic disease, improves cardiovascular health, decreases your blood pressure and promotes healthy weight and metabolism.
When to Exercise?
Is there an ideal time to exercise?
According to science, there is.
The best time to work out is in the morning or afternoon.
Research suggest that working out first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, burns more fat. Exercisers can burn up to 20% more body fat when hitting the gym with an empty stomach. This is easier to do in the morning, before breakfast, than after a day of regular eating.
Additionally, studies show that working out in the morning or early afternoon helps individuals get better quality sleep. In contrast, exercising in the evening could hinder sleep. Exercise increases your heart rate and body temperature; therefore, late night workouts (especially high-intensity ones) could make it more difficult to fall or stay asleep.
As a general rule of thumb, the earlier in the day you exercise, the better!
Movement as Self-Love
Moving our bodies is a deep act of self-love and care. Exercise does not have to feel like a self-imposed chore. Be gentle with yourself. Honor your body. Remember, physical activity is extremely beneficial, regardless of intensity level. All movement is good movement – whether your lifting weights or practicing restorative yoga.
Make your exercise routine fun! Enjoy it! You can choose to go hiking, power walk with friends, swim in the ocean, rock climb, or take a candle light yoga class. Be creative with your movement regimen and have fun! If you genuinely enjoy exercising, you’re more likely to commit to it long-term.
Written by Alex Marynczak from Envol teamTry Envol for free
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- "Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia", Reid, Baron, Lu, Naylor, Wolfe, Zee. Oct 2010.
- "Effects of Single Bouts of Walking Exercise and Yoga on Acute Mood Symptoms in People with Multiple Sclerosis", Ensari, Sandroff, Motl. Jan-Feb 2016.
- "Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety", Anderson, Shivakumar. April 2013.
- "Influence of Exercise Intensity for Improving Depressed Mood in Depression: A Dose-Response Study", Meyer, Koltyn, Stegner, Kim, Cook. July 2016.
- "Resilience to Alzheimer's Disease: The Role of Physical Activity", Pedrinolla, Schena, Venturelli. April 2017.
- "Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males", Gonzalez, Veasey, Rumbold, Stevenson. August 2013.
- "Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives", Fairbrother, Cartner, Alley, Curry, Dickinson, Morris, Collier. December 2014.