10+ Ways Exercise Can Change Your Life

A healthier weight isn’t the only benefit you get from being active.

Posted Aug 25, 2016

StockSnap.io, used with permission.
Source: StockSnap.io, used with permission.

For most people, exercise plays a huge role in weight control and fitness level. Men and women who successfully maintain a healthy weight after losing weight, or who never really have a problem with their weight, tend to be people who are physically active. Regular exercise empowers you to improve your weight status and fitness level because it uses up excess calories that otherwise get stored in your body as fat. But that’s not all exercise does. Exercise can also:

Build muscle. Weight-lifting and weight-bearing exercises (pulling, pushing, pressing, pumping) strengthen your different muscle groups.

Boost your energy levels. Aerobic exercises, including fast walking, swimming and bicycling, build up your cardiovascular endurance, while push-ups and other weight bearing exercises build up your muscular endurance. More endurance means more efficient and sustained delivery of oxygen and nutrients to every cell in your body.

Improve your mood. Exercise, particularly at a level of intensity that you prefer, has been shown in studies to improve mood, even after just 15 minutes of physical activity.

Suppress your appetite. Active people have better control over their appetites, at least in the short-term, than sedentary people.

Reduce the effects of stress. Exercise has consistently been shown to improve resilience to stress and protect against the harmful effects stress can have on both physical and mental health.

Improve your posture. Walking properly, tall and proud, with your head held high and your shoulders back, prevents discomfort when you are walking for exercise and will help you go the distance, while improving your posture by preventing you from slumping and slouching.

Condition your heart. All exercise helps strengthen your heart muscle, but it gets the most benefit from long stretches of uninterrupted aerobic activities, such as dancing and running.

Strengthen your bones. Weight-bearing exercises, including just walking, improve your bone density, which is important to help preventing bone-thinning conditions such as osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Increase your flexibility. To move your joints and use your muscles through their full range of motion, you need good flexibility. The more flexible you are, the less chance you have of hurting yourself. Stretching routines, including yoga, pilates, and t’ai chi, all help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension.

Lengthen your life. People who exercise more live longer and better, and even those who sit for long periods of time at work or home will live longer if they get enough exercise. Read more about the effects of exercise on longevity here

Getting enough exercise is also likely to encourage other positive lifestyle changes, like eating healthier foods, drinking more fluids, and getting enough sleep.  To keep your whole body conditioned, including your mind, and to keep your workout routine from getting boring, vary the type of exercise you do from day to day. As you get more fit, add new types of workouts to your routine.

References:

Berger BG, Darby LA, Zhang Y, Owen DR, Tobin DA. Mood alteration after 15 minutes of preferred intensity exercise: examining heart rate, perceived exertion, and enjoyment. A Journal of Sport Behavior 39.1. Mar 2016. 3-21.

Ekelund U, Steene-Johannessen J, Brown WJ, et al. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women. The Lancet. 27 July 2016.

Martins C, Morgan L, Truby H. A review of the effects of exercise on appetite regulation: an obesity perspective. International Journal of Obesity. 2008;32:1227-1347.

Salmon, P. Effects of physical exercise on anxiety, depression, and sensitivity to stress: a unifying theory. Clinical Psychology Review. February 2001; 21(1):33-61.

Sallis JF, Cerin E, Conway TL, et al. Physical activity in relation to urban environments in 14 cities worldwide: a cross-sectional study. Lancet. 28 May 2016;387(10034):2207-2217.

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