There is a saying, “good things come to those who sweat”, and this holds true. Sure no one likes to be gross and sweaty, but it’s only temporary and that’s what a shower is for. And exercising will be well worth it in the short and long run, no pun intended. There are many reasons to love exercise (even if this is a love-hate relationship). Not only does exercise provide numerous health benefits, but will leave you feeling happier and positive too. And there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support this. Here are 12 reasons you should want to exercise:
1. Feel Happier and Positive
Exercise is a well known, and one of the most effective remedies for helping with low mood and depression. According to the NHS, studies have proven that doing regular exercise can reduce rates of depression by up to 30% (1).
Why does this have such a positive effect? When you exercise, your body produces hormones called endorphins. These act as a natural pain killer (a bit like morphine) and help your body to cope with stress and pain. The get released during exercise, times of laughter, sex and pain. Other hormones are produced too such as serotonin, norepinephrine, adrenaline and dopamine. Like with endorphins, these also have a role to play in reducing stress and leave you feeling happier and more positive. But maybe you are already happy. So if this isn’t a good enough reason to exercise, then there are plenty more positive reasons why you should do it anyway.
2. Lower Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety, a fairly common mental health condition can be a very debilitating disorder for many. Exercise is one way to help improve this if it is done regularly. The same applies to stress. This could be general stress on the body or mental stress caused by work, family or a financial situation. The same hormones that can make you feel happier, also help the body to cope with stress and anxiety too. Even short sessions of exercise, with high or low intensity, can make a difference. So if you aren’t big into exercise, try going for a daily planned walk to clear your mind and get those endorphins and other hormones ticking.
3. Get Glowing Skin
Have you ever noticed the skin on your face after doing physical activity? If you look past that beetroot red colour that may have occurred, your skin tends to have a glow and radiant look. And there is good reason for this. By exercising, you increase your blood flow, which carries more oxygen and nutrients to your cells, helping to nourish them. It can also help take free radicals and other waste away from the cells to the liver to get destroyed. It may also help delay ageing of the skin too (2).
Exercise may also help improve acne. Stress can influence the skin’s oil glands (sebaceous glands), and if too much oil is produced, it can lead to acne. Although studies between skin and stress is still being looked into, by controlling your stress, there is a chance that acne may be improved (3).
4. Tone and Strengthen your Muscles
This may seem like an obvious one, but physical activity is important to help strengthen, tone and build muscle. And this mainly applies to strength and resistance training. No, this is not only for bodybuilders – it takes a lot of effort to bulk your muscles up that much. Doing these types of exercise can be done at a lower intensity too. Strengthening your muscles will not only leave you looking toned and trim, but can help with weight and fitness too. By strengthening your muscles, you are improving your stability, posture and balance. It also helps protect your bones and can prevent the natural loss of lean muscle mass, which happens as you age.
Different types of exercises will do different things to your muscles. Being more physically active or doing vigorous exercise is good for lean muscles and burning fat. Lighter weight and core strength exercises are good for toning, posture and core stability. Whereas heavy weight lifting or intense strength training is good for stability, coordination and balance. And also if you want to bulk up a bit more. It is ideal to have a balance of these types of exercise. Stretching your muscles is important to help with toning and leanness and to help prevent injuries.
Doing strength training is important for everyone, but can be particularly helpful in people who are obese. They need stronger muscles to carry their weight to prevent injuries, such as a knee injury which is quite common. It is also important for heart health and people with arthritis too.
5. Make your Bones Stronger
Physical activity is vital for your bones health and protection. In particular, resistance and weight-bearing exercise are best. These help to improve muscle strength, and this helps to protect the bones and improve bone density (4). This can help reduce the risk of getting osteoporosis (a condition of weak and fragile bones). It may also help with fractures as you age. According to the NHS, 68% of people who do regular exercise are less likely to get hip fractures when they are older (5).
6. Sleep Better
Exercise is a great way to expend your energy and tire out those limbs. While at the same time, giving you more energy and a boost to get through the day. But come bedtime, your body feels exhausted and ready to hit the hay. As you have tired your body out, it tends to relax more, allowing you to have a much deeper and better quality sleep. Studies have shown that doing the recommended amount of exercise a week (150 minutes minimum) can improve sleep quality by over 60% (6). As you do tend to feel energised soon after exercise, it is important to not exercise too late at night, as then this can have the opposite effect, leaving you restless and wired, making falling asleep a little harder.
7. Take Control of your Weight
You are most likely aware that exercise is a key component in weight control. Exercise helps to burn calories. The more you exercise or harder you work out, the more calories you burn. Exercise can help you to lose weight, in combination with a healthy meal intake. But it can also help you maintain a healthy weight, depending on the amount and type you do.
If you are slim and find exercise is causing you to lose weight unintentionally, then consider lowering the intensity and upping your strength training and calorie intake (with healthy, high-calorie options). For weight loss, increase your intensity and focus on higher calorie burning, cardio exercises over very heavy weight training. Although both strength and cardio exercise is important. Aim to have balanced meals including fruit and veg (good low-calorie foods to help fill you up), lean protein, complex carbs, and small amounts of healthy fats.
8. Improve your Health and risk of chronic disease
For centuries, people have been wishing for some miracle cure to help prevent or cure illness and chronic disease. All the while, that cure has been right under our noses this whole time. Furthermore, it is free (most of the time) and you don’t have to wait around for a prescription. Numerous studies have shown that doing regular exercise can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, fractures and falls, cancer, depression and dementia.
- Diabetes: If you are living with type 2 diabetes, exercise can help with improving insulin sensitivity, as it helps you to lose weight (7). For those not living with diabetes, being a healthy weight will lower your risk of getting it.
- Heart disease: Doing exercise regularly strengthens and improves heart health. It also helps to lower blood pressure. If you are living with a heart condition, it is important to speak to your doctor first before taking on exercise. But usually interval training and low-intensity exercise is advised.
- Cancer: Exercise can also reduce the risk of cancer, specifically colon cancer by up to 50% and breast cancer up to 20%, but also prostate cancer.
- Dementia: People who regularly exercise can improve their cognitive function and, therefore, are at less risk of getting dementia or cognitive impairment.
9. Add Spark to your Sex Life
Regular physical activity can improve your sex life as it improves blood circulation and heart health, increases your fitness, and strengthens your muscles and joints (8). However, there are unexplained reasons behind the relationship between exercise and a sex drive, and it is not fully understood yet. Not only does it help with performance, but can help increase frequency and enjoyment too.
As exercise can help with weight loss and feeling and looking good, it can help improve your confidence. This, along with increased fitness too can lead to a better sex life. It may also make women feel more aroused and may lower the risk of erectile dysfunction in men.
10. Boost your Energy
You may feel too tired to exercise and or get up early and go to the gym, but all in all, exercise eventually will leave you feeling more energetic. As you are being more active, your body starts to feel stronger, less fatigued and stressed, and your mood – more positive and happy. Your body also is getting more oxygen to fuel your cells. All of this leaves you feeling more energetic. Mentally you will find you are ready to face more challenges, and physically you will be up for doing more too. Suddenly, being busy won’t seem like such a drag.
11. Sharpen that Memory
Exercise is a great way to sharpen that memory and improve your brain health. As exercise is involved in producing hormones, these help to enhance your brain cells. Exercise also improves blood flow all around your body, including your brain, therefore providing the brain with a good supply of oxygen, vital for brain health. It also helps with cognitive function, therefore helping to improve memory and lower the risk of cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (9).
12. Helps Reduce Pain
In the long list of reasons why exercise is important, pain management is another one. As physical activity helps the production of hormones, specifically endorphins, it can help reduce the perception of pain. Endorphins not only help with happiness, but act like a natural pain killer, temporarily reducing feelings of pain. Back in the day, recommendations for people that suffered from chronic pain were told to rest and avoid doing exercise. But more current evidence suggests otherwise. A good example is back pain. Exercise, in particular, strength exercises can help strengthen the muscles supporting your spine and may offer some relief, in addition to endorphins. Of course, this won’t help if you have a bad knee injury and decide to go running. Exercise may also help you to develop a higher pain threshold, making the pain you suffer with seem more manageable.
The Final Word
Exercise only offers positive outcomes for your health and there are plenty of good reasons to do it. It improves your health, boosts your mood and can be a fun activity. So there should be no excuses not to do it on a regular basis. The only reason to not exercise is if you have an injury preventing you from doing so. Even so, there may be other types of exercises you can do that won’t affect an injury, so even this is a poor excuse. So what are you waiting for?