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Last updated: February 6, 2023 • Education Advice

Overlooked health benefits of exercising

For most people, it doesn’t come as a surprise that moving our bodies around in space comes with good things. The theory, at least, benefits of exercising will probably sound familiar. In this modern era, which cushions everything with comfort and convenience, there seems to be less and less work involving physical effort. We don’t have to move much to get or produce basic things. We can get any food or meal we want prepared and ready for consumption, at any time of the day, almost from any part of the world. Now, isn’t that great? Well, yes, it is. But on the flip side of this lifestyle lurks illness and tremendous amounts of money spent on healthcare.

The human body hasn’t evolved for a sloth-like sedentary lifestyle. And even though sloths are funny and cute, our bodies are not cut out for that pace. Our evolution required rigorous physical effort on a daily basis. We can’t expect ourselves to adapt to the changes brought by technology in such a short period of time.

Summary:

It’s not far-fetched to say that a sedentary lifestyle mixed with plenty of processed food rich in sugars and fats is the worst possible combination for health and the best combination for coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and others.

In this article, you will read about the possible benefits of exercising, not only the six-pack. The correlation between exercising and mental health is also a significant aspect, among other health benefits of exercising that have abundant evidence for us to believe. Aside from the generally known benefits of exercise, there are overlooked benefits, too, and we will look into some of those too!

Benefits of exercise – backed by science

pretty swimmer by pool

There are many scientifically backed health benefits of exercising. Let’s look into a few of them:

Weight control

One of the most obvious benefits of exercising regularly is contributing to achieving your normal body weight. And while in some rare cases, weight can be harmless, usually, it is the cause of many diseases that can develop with time. By engaging in physical activity, you sweat and burn calories. Both of those are very important. Exercise is the optimal way of getting rid of the extra calories, but more important: you get rid of the toxin buildup in your body.

The extra weight puts stress on the body itself, especially the joints, leading to arthrosis. But being overweight can be found behind lots of health problems, like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, or gallbladder disease. Health benefits of exercising include reduced risks of all of those. Reducing stress, and a healthy exercise routine can even lessen the cravings of stress eating

Lowers the risk of inflammatory and auto-inflammatory diseases

Having inflammation in your body for prolonged periods can lead to the development of a number of conditions. When your body encounters bacteria, viruses, chemicals, etc., it activates the immune system. It responds by creating an inflammatory response to kill off the bacteria and heal the body. Which is great. But it can backfire if your immune system fights something night and day. That can cause autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, or psoriasis. This can also affect your thyroid gland, which produces hormones.

Regular exercise can help reduce inflammation and heal the cells by increasing circulation. Better blood flow lowers oxidative stress, eliminating toxins and oxygenating the whole body. Exercise can also help better absorb vitamins that help reduce inflammation. Vitamins A, C, D, and other supplements, like zinc or fish oil are recommended. Health benefits of exercising include better functioning of the endocrine system. The endocrine system releases hormones in the bloodstream, controlling mood, growth and development. The endocrine system regulates good functioning of the organs, metabolism, and even reproduction.

Physical activity contributes to heart health

middle sport woman smiling

The lack of workouts is one of the main risk factors for developing coronary artery disease. High blood pressure, abnormal values for blood lipids, smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle are among the major causes, and they are all interconnected. Usually, someone with one of those has other risk factors from the list too. A good workout routine can target all of those at once, so the benefits of exercising have been scientifically proven to lower the risks of venous and coronary artery diseases.

It’s hard to tell if you have a fatty plaque inside your veins without costly testing or if you lack apparent symptoms. An exercise routine can protect your heart and save you the money and worries. Even 30 minutes of exercise can be enough to ensure your arteries’ safety in the long run. However, it’s essential to note that walking around won’t do the trick, even if you do it for hours. You need to engage in something more vigorous to get the heart to work harder and activate the metabolism. Improving your circulation will automatically lower blood pressure and blood lipid values. The benefits of exercising include losing weight, and oxygenating your body might help to take the edge off the craving for a smoke as well.

The correlation between exercise and mental health

The body needs the help of exercise to function, and your mind is not making an exception either. There’s an apparent relationship between physical activity and mental health. 

An improved circulation pumps oxygen to your brain, helping you think better and faster. 

By invigorating your endocrine system, you can savor more of those happiness hormones your brain needs. More in detail about this further in the article. 

Benefits of exercising in the morning

morning new day alarm clock

Alongside the obvious health benefits of exercising discussed above, there are other benefits of exercising in the morning. It feels nice to check the workout off your list first thing in the morning. It might be hard to make it a routine initially, so take your time and start with little things. Two days a week is all right, and remember: anything is better than nothing. To make the routine a part of your life, it’s enough to start with as little as you feel comfortable with. You don’t have to do a 30min run in the cold on your first day. 

After making it a routine, you can reap the benefits of exercising in the morning. Starting the day with exercise improves your mood for the whole day. It will keep you energized all day and help you to eat better and healthier. It even helps to deal with stress better since you have already decreased the stress hormones in your bloodstream by doing the workout. Vigorous exercise helps eliminate bacteria and activates white blood cells and antibodies, assisting your body in fighting diseases. A morning workout improves cognitive functions and memory throughout the day. Melatonin levels also increase later in the day, helping you sleep better. Sleeping better will help you get up earlier and organize your day more optimally. It’s all a big circle of interconnected issues. 

Benefits of exercising every day

sportsman climber

While you should be careful not to overdo it, there are tremendous benefits to exercising every day. Some of those are:

Supports the fascia

Fascia is the connective tissue under our skin supporting and protecting our muscles, joints, and bones. Sitting for long periods of time deteriorates the fascia. If the fascia loses elasticity, the muscles can become neurologically inhibited, making it hard for them to contract and release when needed. This is one of the main reasons behind chronic neck and back pain and muscle and ligament strains. 

Daily workout boosts energy

It’s a common fear that a workout will exhaust you. While it takes some of your energy at the moment, regular exercise teaches your body to be more energetic. One of the main health benefits of exercising is that the energy put into it turns back, multiplied. Workout is much like a good investment from every point of view. 

It helps reaching your goals

Working out daily will not only help your body be healthier, but it will also improve your cognitive abilities and help you concentrate better. This ultimately contributes to building your self-esteem and determination, setting you on track for achieving your goals.

Benefits of exercising before sleep

The benefits of exercising upon sleep improvement are invaluable and often overlooked. Physical activity improves sleep quality and amount. It reduces stress and anxiety, helping with insomnia and other sleep disorders. But this doesn’t mean that it’s advised to fall into bed right after finishing a high-intensity workout. Physical activity can impact your circadian rhythm, leading to imbalances. Also, some sports, like climbing, might increase your adrenaline and cortisol levels at the time. While adrenaline drops shortly after the workout, sometimes cortisol can take a bit longer to decrease. Of course, this doesn’t mean that climbing increases stress hormone levels. On the contrary: experiencing them in controlled environments and settings can help you improve your relationship with them. This then helps with a more balanced attitude towards dealing with stress in daily life. Just remember to calculate the cooldown into the workout time, too.  

Lower stress levels in the evening contribute to better sleep. In many cases, even insomnia is linked to experiencing prolonged stress or anxiety. Exercise can eliminate some of that and help you sleep good. However, it will not replace psychological care if that is behind sleeplessness. 

The relationship between physical activity and mental health

mountain bike cyclist

According to recent statistics, nearly 50 million Americans are experiencing some kind of mental illness. Depression affects almost 1 in 10, and more than 30% of the entire population will experience anxiety at some point in their life. Mental health is one of the leading health concerns in America. 

Compare this to the fact that less than 23% of Americans meet the guidelines of a healthy exercise routine, while many Americans are car-dependent. It’s an overlooked health benefit of exercising that will encourage you to get out more and enjoy outdoor activities

People who engage in physical activities tend to be more emotionally and mentally stable. Even a light exercise session can significantly boost your mood and focus. 

Growth of brain cells

Exercise affects the brain in several ways. An increased circulation pumps more oxygen to the brain, accelerating the growth of brain cells. Exercising stimulates the development of new connections between the brain cells and helps grow new neuronal connections.

Exercise and happiness hormones

portrait active aged woman and man

One of the most addictive benefits of exercising is a significant drop in stress hormone levels and a rise in happiness- hormone levels. Endorphine, dopamine, and serotonin. Those are said to be the leading contributors to the rush of good feelings you get during and after a rigorous workout. That feeling also goes by the name of “runners’ high.”

When you exercise, your brain produces essential neurotransmitters. Those send messages throughout your nervous system of feelings of happiness.

Studies found a link between low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine and depression. The curious thing, though, is that exercise doesn’t only produce more of those juicy hormones, but it strengthens the body’s ability to deal with stressors, too.

The effect of exercise on depression and anxiety

Most scientists and mental health experts agree with the fact that exercise has a positive effect on mood. A growing amount of research proves the benefits of exercising on mood and emotional states. While it’s still no clear answer to why it helps, results show it does. Regular exercise can ease depression and anxiety by releasing the feel-good hormones and brain chemicals mentioned above. A less-researched way exercise can have a significant effect is by taking your mind to the present moment. Focusing on moving your body helps to connect with it, feel your breath, and take your mind off the vicious cycles of negative thinking. Caring for your body with some exercise is a form of meditation. It improves focus, which is essential for fighting mood swings. 

Anxiety often goes together with insomnia. Exercising can help improve the quality of sleep and stabilize circadian patterns. Many patients with depression experience problems with their circadian rhythm too. Sometimes that takes the form of excessive sleeping. The energizing effects of physical activity in the morning help to stay awake during the day. With time, it helps regulate sleep and waking cycles. 

Any physical activity is proven to be beneficial, not just vigorous sessions of exercise. Doing too much in the beginning can even have adverse effects, worsening depression and anxiety. But a gentle start can do wonders, and it doesn’t even have to be a sport. Walking in the park, gardening, or even washing the windows can break a little bit of sweat and maybe break the cloud of bad mood, too. 

Getting more social interaction and boosting self-esteem are outcomes of exercise too. Even deciding to engage in any little physical activity is already a form of self-care

Boosting self-esteem

The health benefits of exercising can appear in unexpected places. Well, not that unexpected, actually, but definitely overlooked. Having a regular exercise routine can have positive psychological effects too. It can be a conscious or unconscious form of self-care. Knowing that you put effort into feeling good will empower you. Feeling a little progress regularly is proof that your perseverance wasn’t in vain. Little by little, seeing progress and knowing that you can do it will boost your self-esteem. 

Workout eventually helps you achieve your ideal body weight and get in shape. Working with your body makes you feel more connected and grounded and helps to cultivate a healthy body image.

Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

In the study Titled The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review by Julia C, Basso, and Wendy Suzuki, it says that long term effects of exercising improve cognitive functions during aging. According to the paper, cognitive decline is a common occurrence resulting from neurodegeneration, and in some cases, this degeneration results in mild cognitive impairment. More severe forms of cognitive impairment are Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. Furthermore: “Because of the role of exercise in enhancing neurogenesis and brain plasticity, physical activity may serve as a potential therapeutic tool to prevent, delay, or treat cognitive decline. Indeed, studies in both rodents and humans have shown that long-term exercise is helpful in both delaying the onset of cognitive decline and dementia as well as improving symptoms in patients with an already existing diagnosis.” – we learn from the introduction of the study.

Social benefits of exercise

multiracial woman doing yoga

One exciting aspect of the benefits of exercising is that it will slowly but surely change your life. The pandemic took its toll on people and pushed the loneliness statistics even higher. But even without lockdowns, statistics show heartbreaking numbers of people feeling lonely, isolated, and longing for connection. An American Perspectives Survey in 2021 shows that Americans have few and fewer close friendships than ever before. Long working hours are the main factors contributing to social life’s degradation and social isolation. 

It can seem very hard to make time for a workout routine, but remember, all the little things count. With the routine already set, it becomes much more manageable. 

Going to the gym or playing a team sport like football or basketball will leave you with the rich social benefits of exercising. You get to see other people with the same interest regularly. And, you also get to share the joy of the experience. Let’s not overlook the importance of these small details. A little chit-chat after the morning tai-chi can make a massive difference in the long day that follows. 

The benefits of exercising regularly

Exercise changes you – for the better 

After a longer period of regular exercising, you might experience that exercise has changed you. Your body feeling better means you are feeling better. Sticking with exercising in the long term also encourages you to focus on finding more activities you enjoy

The risk-benefit paradox of exercise

tired after exercise

The research entitled The risk-benefit paradox of exercise, published in the BC Medical Journal, has shown that the risk of an adverse event is higher when engaging in vigorous exercise. However, a well-tailored exercise routine lowers the risk of a health-hazardous event, like a heart attack, in the long term.

In other words, there are risks of getting hurt while doing vigorous exercise. You can have a heart attack by overdoing it or drinking too much or too little water, for example.

Don’t be discouraged by this. Leaving the house, too, has the risk of being hit by a car, but we still have to go grocery shopping…

Exercising regularly lowers the risk of an adverse event because routine helps your body prepare for the session. Exercising only once in a while can put tremendous stress on the unprepared body, leading to injuries. Some kind of regularity or routine is advised for long term benefits. 

Exercise is just as important as water!

fitness woman drinking water

In conclusion, physical activity can be a major transformative force in our lives. Just like water, exercise can take any shape and help us become more flexible if we give it time to take effect. 

We can’t speak about exercise without at least mentioning the importance of drinking proper amounts of water. Adequate water intake is crucial for all your body when working out. The connective tissue, arteries, muscles, articular cartilage, everything needs it. But be aware that too much water can leave you without precious ions, which can even lead to death. Start planning your exercise routine by becoming informed on how much water you should drink. 

The benefits of exercise are uncountable, but before you start, take a moment and think your plan through. If you don’t exercise regularly, build your routine up slowly, so you don’t traumatize your body or injure yourself. Building muscles takes time, but more importantly, it takes patience. Be gentle to yourself to avoid injuries, and enjoy the outcome you thoroughly deserve!

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