10 Surprising Benefits of Starting an Exercise and Fitness Regimen
Many people have a vague idea that exercise is good for the body. For example, you may understand that exercise is an important component of weight loss or may help maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
However, emerging research has shown that even the minimum amount of exercise can improve a person’s overall quality of life. A look at the top 10 most surprising benefits of exercise can help you create a fitness regimen to transform your life for the better.
1. Exercise May Help Sharpen Mental Clarity and Focus
One surprising benefit of dedicating to an exercise program is that doing so may help increase mental clarity and focus.
Recent research has shown that because exercise increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain, it can nourish the growth of new blood vessels and keep cerebral cells healthy. Moreover, a University of Texas study published in the National Library of Medicine found that exercise stimulates the activity of the BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) protein. This BDNF protein encourages the development of new neurons and may help strengthen the brain’s natural ability to repair and protect its cells.
2. Exercise Can Make You Feel Happier
There are numerous anecdotal stories of individuals feeling happier or less moody after a good workout. Fortunately, the science is also available to confirm these claims.
Recent studies have shown that exercise can unleash a wealth of feel-good chemicals in the brain, including serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, dopamine. Respectively, doctors associate these chemicals with lessening pain, improving mood, relieving stress, and triggering the brain’s reward system. This means that starting an exercise regimen can not only make you feel better – it can also feel more rewarding the longer you stick with the program.
3. Exercise Can Help Your Skin Look Better
Exercise may help improve the appearance of your skin by reducing the amount of oxidative stress in your body.
Research has shown that oxidative stress occurs when the body cannot adequately repair the damage caused when free radicals interfere with healthy cells. This can lead to internal deterioration, resulting in inflammation and other ailments that afflict the skin. Fortunately, regular exercise helps increase the body’s natural production of internal antioxidants. These antioxidants fight free radicals and help encourage the look of radiant skin.
Exercise can also increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the skin and make it glow in the process. The circulation of oxygenated blood may also reduce inflammation while improving the texture of your skin.
Interested in even more proof that exercise may improve the appearance of skin? A study conducted at the Bispebjerg Hospital in Denmark found that hormonal release during exercise increases the body’s natural production and circulation of collagen and elastin. Whether you want to improve your complexion or reduce the likelihood of skin problems down the road, a dedicated fitness regimen can help your skin bloom with health.
4. Exercise Can Heighten Energy Levels
Although some people may think they are “too tired” to get up and exercise, a regular fitness regimen can actually increase energy levels.
Exercise triggers the release of the natural endorphin hormones. The flow of endorphins provides the energy needed to increase cellular stamina, performance, and endurance. In fact, it is the release of endorphins that causes the feeling of euphoria known as “second wind” or “runner’s high.” In addition, the increase of oxygen-rich blood flow helps regulate the contraction and expansion of blood vessels, reducing the feeling of sluggishness and helping you feel alert, livelier, and more energized.
5. Exercise May Help Build Strong Muscles and Bones
Even if you have no plans to become a bodybuilder in the conventional sense, exercise can help you build and maintain healthy muscles and bones.
For one, the hormones released during exercise improve the ability of your muscles to catalyze and absorb amino acids. This absorption of amino acids (the cellular building-blocks of protein) strengthens muscles and helps reduce the risks of deterioration.
At the same time, prolonged exercise can help shrink fat cells by breaking down stored fat for use as an energy source. For this reason, people often combine workouts with protein-based shakes in order to capitalize on this amino acid absorption and to help build lean muscle. Moreover, regular exercise can gradually increase muscle mass and help counteract age-related muscle loss.
Similarly, the proper absorption of amino acids can help with the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D. Better absorption of vitamin D in turn helps the body absorb calcium. This absorption of vitamin D helps build bone density over time.
Moreover, the improved circulation that comes with regular exercise can better deliver these essential nutrients to the cells in your teeth and bones. Just as some people drink vitamin D milk to reap the benefits of calcium absorption, you can exercise regularly to strengthen your skeleton and bones.
6. Exercise and Fitness May Improve Sleep Quality
Another surprising benefit of regular exercise is that it may improve relaxation and overall sleep quality. In other ways, engaging in a regular fitness program can help your body get the most out of a good night’s sleep.
A recent study published in PubMed found that the energy depletion that occurs during exercise helps stimulate the recuperative process that your body experiences during sleep. Moderate intensity exercise can also reduce the negative effects of cortisol, a stress hormone that inhibits sleep. Those struggling with fatigue may discover that an exercise regimen can help them sleep more thoroughly and thereby feel more energized the following day.
7. Exercise Can Be a Powerful Anti-Aging Tool
Promising research suggests that exercise may be one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal against premature aging. A recent study published in Preventive Medicine successfully associated regular exercise to longer “caps” at the end of cellular chromosomes.
Also known as telomeres, these caps shorten with age due to normal cell division. Most people who age more “slowly” have longer telomeres than those who do not. The study found that the telomeres in people who exercise tended to be 140 base pairs longer on average than people who lived sedentary lifestyles.
Even more interestingly, a related Mayo Clinic study found that this effect on telomeres has just as much of an impact on older people who begin exercising as it does on younger people who maintain a workout regimen. Whether you want to slow down the negative effects of aging or help maintain a more youthful appearance, exercise is one of the best ways to proceed from the inside out.
8. Exercise May Be Vital to Self-Esteem
Numerous studies have shown that people who manage their stress feel more confident and have higher self-esteem.
A Mayo Clinic study demonstrated that exercise can be one of the best ways to manage stress because of the production of hormonal endorphins. These endorphins lower oxidative stress and may contribute to a sense of overall well-being. Commit to a fitness program of at least 20 minutes each day to reap the benefits of this confidence booster.
9. Exercise May Help Improve Your Interpersonal Relationships
Many fitness activities involve classes, clubs, and communities that help you connect with people who share common interests and goals. Not only can this type of interaction help you build a sense of teamwork and camaraderie, but it can also help you develop a support network to reach your fitness goals. Because regular exercise increases confidence and self-esteem, your other social relationships may improve as well.
10. Exercise May Increase Access to Other Self-Care Amenities
An often-overlooked benefit of exercise is that it may increase exposure to other self-care programs and regimens.
For example, modern-day gym memberships often include access to designated yoga and Pilates studios, boxing rings, lap pools, and steam rooms. Many facilities also have in-house saunas and spas for massages, facials, and other beauty treatments. Even if the facility does not contain these amenities, most cities zone these related businesses in the same district or area. In this way, engaging in regular exercise can provide inspiration for improving your overall quality of life.
The Bottom Line
Without a doubt, it is a great idea to exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight. However, there is no need to overlook the lesser-known ways that exercise benefits the mind and body. Do yourself a favor and commit to a workout regimen to reap rewards that last a lifetime.