Twelve Reasons You Need to Exercise
Ahhh, exercise! You love it or you hate it! Most people try to find excuses to avoid it. Once you understand the benefits though, and especially once you experience them, it’s hard to NOT want to exercise!
If you read my post “The Deal on Sugar”, you will notice that many of the things you experience from regular exercise are the same benefits you enjoy when abstaining from sugars. This is one of the amazing things about the way that God created our body! When we are taking care of the various needs that we have, it all works together to heal and thrive.
Probably the most common reason people start an exercise program is to lose a few pounds. It is a great place to start! Regular exercise (cardio, resistance training, even just moving around more) burns calories while working with your hormones to use stored fat for energy. An added bonus is as you lose fat and build muscle, your metabolism is also becoming more efficient. This means you will burn more fat and calories faster! Who doesn’t want that?
Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, giving you that amazing feeling of happiness and accomplishment. Other hormones that are released after a workout are norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), all of which work together to improve your mood and alleviate stress and anxiety.
It seems a bit counterintuitive that working hard would give you more energy. The way this works is through the process of muscles getting stronger. The heart is a muscle, and as you work it consistently, it functions more optimally. This results in better blood flow to the rest of the body, which translates into every other muscle working more efficiently as well.
Immediately after a workout, you may feel a temporary relief from pain. This is because of the endorphins and other natural opiates that the body produces during exercise. There are more long-term pain reducing benefits as well. Moving and stretching the muscles increases their strength and flexibility, helping to cut down on back and joint pain, as well as the discomfort of stiff muscles.
Improved Bone Density
When we exercise, we know that we are making our muscles stronger. We don’t usually think, “I am going to get into a good workout routine so I can make my bones big and strong.” But, that is exactly what is happening! It happens more with exercises like running, where you are contacting a hard surface (as opposed to swimming, which is very buoyant and low-impact).
Increased heart rate during exercise improves blood flow to all of the body. One of the wonderful side effects of this is more nutrients reaching the cells, including the skin cells. Exercise also assists in the production of the oils on our skin, giving us that softness and glow that we all desire!
There are so many factors that contribute to the way our hormones operate. Everything from the food we eat, to what we breathe, to the toxins in our food containers and body care products have an effect on that delicate balance. Exercise positively affects our hormones by helping to regulate estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol, while aiding in balancing insulin levels as well.
Increased blood flow and sweating both are huge contributors in helping the body to eliminate toxins. The skin is our largest elimination organ; it makes sense then, that sweating would go a long way in carrying off those nasty little toxins that are hanging out in our bodies! Meanwhile, better blood flow takes more nutrients to the cells, which enables them to also do their part in disposing of waste and keeping the body clean.
More Restful Sleep And Reduced Stress
These two go hand in hand. If you are not sleeping well, then chances are, you are feeling more stressed than you should be. At the same time, If you are feeling a bit more stressed than normal, you are probably also not sleeping as well. Exercise helps to ease both symptoms by promoting deeper, more restful sleep, as well as giving you a greater feeling of peace and happiness (remember the happy hormones we talked about?).
Better Brain Health
There have been study results that have linked regular exercise to a sharper mind and memory. Part of this is because of better focus that we experience when our blood to brain flow is optimal. But there are also long-term benefits to the hippocampus (the portion of the brain that is responsible for emotions, the autonomic nervous system, and memory).
Because cardiovascular disease is caused by something being wrong with the heart, one of the best ways to guard against it is by strengthening the heart. The other benefits of exercise that we have already touched on, increased bone density (which can go a long way in preventing osteoporosis), lower levels of body fat (which can decrease your “bad” cholesterol while increasing the “good” cholesterol), and better blood flow all have other benefits for our health long term.
Muscle growth was probably one of the first things you thought of when you read the title of this post! While big muscles are definitely not the most important result of exercise, a fit, toned body gives us a lot more than just good looks! It is a good indicator of what is happening inside: The body functioning well and doing its job of protecting us and keeping us healthy.
In conclusion, exercise is not just an option. It is necessary for good health. For you, it may mean just getting outside and walking every day. It may mean getting a gym membership and actually using it. It may even mean getting out of bed a half hour earlier so that you can go for a run before work. Whatever it means for you, make the necessary changes and do it. And do it consistently! Beating yourself up with an intense workout once every three weeks is not going to cut it. It’s better to do something quick and easy consistently, then something crazy but only once in a while. So get out and do it! Your body and brain will thank you!