Working out makes you feel better.
That’s why you do it in the first place.
But it’s important to understand that all exercise isn’t created equal and that some workouts can make you feel worse if you don’t do them correctly or your body isn’t prepared for them.
When done correctly, however, exercise offers so many benefits to both physical and mental health that it’s hard to find another form of self-care that compares.
This article discusses 10 of the most commonly experienced health benefits of working out.
1. Reduces the risk of disease
There’s no pill you can swallow that will effectively lower your risk for disease, but exercise is one factor in a whole host of lifestyle choices that can.
It helps reduce your chances of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
Put simply: At least 30 minutes every day spent doing some sort of cardiovascular activity — as well as muscle-strengthening activities — will improve your health.
2. Lowers blood pressure
Your heart needs more blood to get through your body when you’re working out, and so it pumps harder.
Over time, that can cause high blood pressure in people with a family history of it—and those who already have prehypertension.
A small study published in Clinical & Experimental Hypertension found that regular aerobic exercise helped lower blood pressure by 5 points on average in people with prehypertension.
It was even more effective in lowering blood pressure among people with hypertension.
The same study found weight training to be beneficial for reducing systolic blood pressure by 4.5 points as well.
3. Boosts mood
Exercise can make us feel good by releasing endorphins.
And that’s important because feeling good about yourself can help you take control of your life and come up with new goals for improvement.
It also improves cognitive function and keeps your memory sharp, so you don’t forget to pick up milk on your way home from work.
Running, yoga and playing sports are all great ways to start pumping more endorphins into your daily routine.
In addition to keeping you happy now, exercise will reduce stress and anxiety later in life—and less stress means longer life.
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4. Improves memory and cognitive skills
Being active increases blood flow to your brain, feeding it with oxygen and nutrients that help you think more clearly.
One study found that people over age 65 who exercised three times a week were 40 percent less likely to develop memory-related problems than those who exercised less frequently.
And while we’re on the subject.
Here’s some good news:
Working out doesn’t just stop us from losing our minds as we get older.
It also helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in our golden years.
5. Burns fat and boosts metabolism
When you work up a sweat, you can help your body stay in fat-burning mode longer.
Many people jump on a treadmill and start walking or running for 30 minutes when they want to lose weight.
But it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not enough time to burn through all your stored glycogen (carbohydrates), so your body will also be breaking down muscle tissue, which can make losing weight more challenging, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery in Alabama.
To maximize fat-burning potential and keep your metabolism revved up, aim for 60-minute workout sessions at least four times per week.
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6. Strengthens bones
Physical activity is key for keeping bones strong and dense.
Weight-bearing exercises, like running, increase bone density by building muscle around the bone.
This increases your lean body mass and naturally stimulates hormones that build and maintain healthy bones.
Bone density peaks in early adulthood then start to decline as you age.
It’s important to keep up with exercise to help slow down and stop bone loss in later years.
To be more specific, studies show high-impact activities.
Like walking briskly uphill, doing jumping jacks, or running upstairs—are particularly good at boosting bone strength as well as balance and coordination.
7. Increases productivity
Exercising during work hours may help you stay focused and alert throughout your day.
The Mayo Clinic reports that exercise boosts energy, and a study in Diabetes Care revealed that just one workout improved memory function in overweight adults.
Even a few minutes of light activity can help you power through your tasks at hand with greater clarity and efficiency.
If you’re feeling sluggish, take a quick walk or stretch; if that doesn’t do it for you, commit to more formal exercise later in the day as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
Healthy workers are also more productive workers—so get moving!
8. Relieves stress
Even if you don’t realize it, physical activity actually helps you manage stress by releasing tension from muscles and by helping your body release endorphins (chemicals that make you feel good).
Just 30 minutes of exercise can reduce levels of stress hormones.
As a result, exercising is one way to control or even prevent anxiety disorders like panic attacks.
Regular workouts have been linked to improved mood, which may be one reason why people who exercise frequently often have fewer symptoms of depression than their sedentary peers.
Getting regular physical activity can help you get a better night’s sleep because it regulates your body temperature and increases overall muscle tone, both of which improve relaxation during sleep.
9. Burns calories fast (up to 1000 per hour!)
Some exercises burn more calories than others, depending on your weight and how intensely you exercise.
An average male or female can expect to burn about 100-300 calories per hour just by standing there.
But if you’re running, cycling, or swimming at a moderate pace for an hour.
You could burn up to 1000 (!) calories—the equivalent of two large pizzas.
There are roughly 3,500 calories in one pound of fat.
So if you are exercising for an hour a day and not making any dietary changes, that’s enough to help you lose 15 pounds in five months.
If your goal is weight loss, it pays to think about exercise as free calorie burning instead of something burdensome.
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10. Increases energy levels
Exercise is a natural stimulant.
Endorphins, adrenaline, and other hormones are released into your blood while you work out to give you an energy boost that can last for hours.
If you’re constantly dragging, try increasing your exercise routine to see if your stamina improves.
Physical fatigue can be due to a number of factors, including low testosterone and dehydration.
You may also be suffering from depression or anxiety, which can have symptoms similar to exhaustion—but these conditions are temporary and treatable with professional help.
Exercise can improve your mood as well as increase energy levels, so it’s worth looking into these issues further if lack of energy is standing in your way.
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