Health Benefits of Exercise

I hate most forms of exercise.

Specifically the cardio variety. There’s just something about being on a treadmill that makes me feel like a hamster.

Plus, which I’m working to lose weight, I realize that most of my weight loss will come from my food choices, and what I do in the gym (or in my basement) is more about building muscles and increasing endurance (among other amazing things).

I mean, we all know that exercise is good for you, right?

But that doesn’t mean we have to like it…or does it? Are their health benefits of exercise?

I mean if doing something could improve your overall health and longevity, you’d figure out a way to like it…right?

 

Exercise is Good for You

Regular exercise does a lot of good things for your body, like improving heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, and reducing your risk for things like diabetes, and arthritis.

Beyond those obvious things, regular exercise helps to reduce stress, improve your mood, increase your energy, and can even help you get better quality sleep.

So…maybe I can learn to like it?

But Wait…There’s More!

It’s not just about reducing your risk of heart attack, diabetes, and strokes.

The real benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, which helps to reduce inflammation and stabilize blood sugar levels.

Exercise helps your body move the way it needs to, which means you’re using your muscles (including your heart muscle) and helping your bones and ligaments to grow stronger because of the movement.

Now, you don’t have to be like me. You don’t have to sign up for a 50-minute barre class for your first foray back into the fitness world.

Or maybe your first toe-dip in the period.

In fact, going overboard is often the reason that people give up. You figure you went “all in”…but your pants aren’t magically falling off and you’re sore as all get out the next day.

I get it.

But you do have to move. Here are some benefits of exercise, to consider.

Health Benefits of Exercise

Get Moving

In fact, just 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week is enough. And all kinds of things count as exercise. Not just the treadmill (thank heavens!).

There are four main types of training that you can do:

  • Cardiovascular training (think brisk walking, jogging, yard or housework, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming)
  • Strength training (think barre, climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, or even doing some mat or reformer Pilates exercises)
  • Balance training (think barre, standing on one foot, Tai Chi, and some forms of dance)
  • Flexibility training (think any type of stretching, like yoga)

All Exercise Counts

Some people get discouraged because they can’t make it to the gym, but that’s okay!

Cleaning the house, weekend hikes, walking or biking around your neighborhood, and gardening all count towards your weekly exercise goal.

Suddenly that 30 minutes a day doesn’t seem so hard, does it?

Health Benefits of Exercise

Plus, you’re doing right by your body (especially if you plan on sticking around here on Earth for a while).

Heart Health

In one study, just 30 minutes of exercise a day reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle-aged men who previously had a heart attack.

That’s pretty impressive.

Regular exercise also reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension issues.

Brain Health

Exercise can help improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease, and it also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies showed that exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Let’s get technical for a second, okay?

BDNF is involved in learning and memory. BDNF also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (your hippocampus).

Muscle & Bone Health

Most people know that regular physical activity can help build and maintain strong muscles and bones.

This becomes more and more important as we age because we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis.

Basically, if you want to prevent osteoporosis, you need to exercise regularly, and a mix of strength training and cardiovascular exercise is best.

PRO TIP: Don’t forget that balance exercises not only strengthen your muscles, they also increase your balance, which can help prevent falls, and if you’re clumsy like me, that’s a good thing!

Are you overwhelmed yet?

Don’t be.

Since there are different benefits for different types, experiment and see what you enjoy.

Start by trying to mixing up the types of workouts you do throughout the week.

In fact, you don’t even need an “official” workout.

Walking up and down your stairs at home, to the store, or doing household chores totally counts. Just make sure you get your 30 minutes a day.

I find that tracking my activity with my FitBit helps to make sure that I stay active every day. I love the little fireworks that show up when I’ve hit my 30 minutes!

What’s your favorite exercise and how often do you do it?

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Brea

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