Do you UNDERSTAND the benefits of REGULAR exercise??

Exercise is one of the BEST things you can do for you - your body, your health, and your life.

While teaching a gym class on Monday I [Rachelle] heard someone say, “I eat clean so I don’t have to [do cardio].” That comment has been eating at me since. Still cringing. Because...exercise is one of the most important lifestyle choices we can make!

If, perhaps, you have found yourself thinking, “I don’t need to be active”, it is time to revisit the why’s of exercise.

If instead you are like me and periodically find yourself in an exercise slump, use these why’s to rediscover your motivation and find new meaning in movement.

Exercise, a.k.a. "physical activity", strength and aerobic training, movement, etc., 

  • Strengthens the heart. Did you know your heart is a muscle? The most important muscle in your body, in fact! Your heart contracts 100,000 times a day to push roughly 2,000 gallons worth of blood throughout your body.1 Exercise will strengthen your heart, making it more efficient, reliable, and resilient.
  • Boosts mood. Exercise increases self-esteem2 and provides that positive feeling of accomplishment. When we exercise, feel-good chemicals are released in our brain.

Research has found that exercise can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Some psychologists actually prescribe regular exercise to their patients because of this benefit.

  • Increases stamina. Oftentimes we think of exercise and increasing our strength, but another by-product is increased ENDURANCE and ENERGY! Exercise is work, but so is play. Doing the things you love (e.g. playing with your kids, participating in your favorite hobbies) can become easier to do because of the added energy and endurance that come from regular physical activity. It may seem counterintuitive, but exercise does give you more energy.
  • Protects strength and muscle mass. Around the ages of 25-30 years, strength and muscle mass start to decline. In fact, those who are physically inactive experience a loss of ~3-8% of their muscle mass per decade. Scary, right?!

Muscle plays a role in helping you maintain a healthy body composition. It is more metabolically active than fat, which means it burns more calories throughout the day…just by existing. This caloric burn keeps your metabolism up and can help prevent weight gain.

While research has found that strength and muscle mass decline near the 3rd decade of life, this is NOT a prognosis or diagnosis! It does not have to be your future. You can change it. You can keep the strength and muscle mass you have built up! You can even add to it, by engaging in a regular physical activity program, particularly one that includes strength training in addition to aerobic training.

  • Builds muscle thereby making activities of daily living easier. Muscle makes it possible for you to lift your arms to carry and put your groceries away. It helps you balance on one leg while you put your pants on and prevent falls. It makes it possible for you to sit on the toilet by yourself, to get down on the floor to play with your kids and to get yourself up afterwards. It helps you maintain your independence and quality of life.
  • Aids in weight maintenance. Yes, exercise is not the number one solutions to weight loss like we once thought. However, it can still aid in weight loss efforts and it plays a significant role in maintaining weight lost and/or keeping your physique where you want it.
  • Improves your odds of living longer and healthier. Studies have found a decreased risk for dying prematurely the more active subjects are.
  • Improves cognitive functioning. Regular exercise has been found to improve learning capacity, memory, and attention.3 Additionally, consistent exercise can prevent dementias, like Alzheimer’s4, which have become one of the number one health concerns in recent years according to the World Health Organization.
  • Boosts the immune system.5

Did you realize regular exercise has so many benefits?! Isn't it INCREDIBLE!?! The cool thing is it does not stop there. Regular exercise can also help prevent a myriad of chronic diseases such as:

    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Osteoporosis
    • Stroke
    • Depression/anxiety*
    • Heart disease - Exercise can prevent high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease.
    • Certain cancers** (e.g. breast and colon) 

To experience these benefits, you do not have to be an insane, fanatical exerciser. Do you have to do something, though? Definitely. While eating well does have its’ health benefits, NO diet can replace what regular exercise does for you. Let’s get moving and keep moving because truly we cannot afford not to.

*Suicide rates are currently rising at an alarming rate in the U.S.  **Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in the U.S. 

References:

  1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Affiliate/Heart-How-It-Works_UCM_428843_Article.jsp#.XAhCABNKgWo
  2. Elavsky, S. (2010). Longitudinal examination of the exercise and self-esteem model in middle-aged women. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 32(6), 862-880.
  3. Erickson, K. I., Voss, M. W., Prakash, R. S., Basak, C., Szabo, A., Chaddock, L., . . . Gage, F. (2011). Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(7), 3017-3022.
  4. Erickson, K., Weinstein, A., & Lopez, O. (2012). Physical activity, brain plasticity, and Alzheimer’s disease. Archives of Medical Research, 43(8), 615-621.
  5. Walsh, N., Gleeson, M., Pyne, D., Nieman, D., Dhabhar, F., Shephard, R., . . . Kajeniene, A. (2011). Position statement. Part two: Maintaining immune health. Exercise Immunology Review, 17, 64.

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