Exercise is any movement puts your muscles to work and demands your body to burn calories. Some types of physical activities which are exercise include: running, swimming, jogging, dancing, walking, sports like soccer and basketball, cycling among many others.
Being physically active has been proved to have a lot of benefits to your health, both mentally and physically. It even increases your lifespan. (1)
Physical fitness through exercise is one of the most common pieces of advice offered by medics across the planet. There are many benefits of exercise when done correctly. Some of the most common include
This article seeks to focus on some of the direct benefits of exercise on the brain and on the body.
According to an article published by the Havard Health Blog, exercise helps the brain both directly and indirectly. Physical activity reduces insulin resistance and inflammation. It stimulates the release of growth factors in the brain that affects the growth of new blood cells. These growth factors also encourage the abundance and survival of new blood cells keeping the brain healthy. Indirectly; it improves brain activity, which also improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety problems.
Studies conducted on the hippocampus among children, adults and the elderly show that the brain structure grew after aerobic exercise. The hippocampus is part of the brain that holds the memory and is therefore crucial for learning.
Exercise protects your thinking and memory skills and also improves your brain function. First, exercise increases your heart rate which promotes the flow of oxygen and blood to your brain. Exercise also stimulates the release of hormones which enhance the growth of brain cells.
Because exercise fights chronic diseases, exercising to fight these diseases also benefits your brain because chronic diseases can affect brain function.
Regular exercise is especially important for older adults since aging — combined with inflammation and oxidative stress — promotes changes in brain function and structure. (3)
SUMMARY: Regular physical activity improves blood circulation to the brain and promotes brain memory and health. It reduces mental decline among older adults.
Energy loss that occurs during exercise promotes recuperative processes when asleep thus getting better sleep quality. (7)
Furthermore, since exercise increases your body temperature, the body temperature increase improves sleep quality by helping it drop during sleep.
Numerous researches on the effects of exercise on sleep have reached similar conclusions.
One study found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week can provide up to a 65% improvement in sleep quality
Another study revealed that 16 weeks of physical activity increased sleep quality and helped 17 people with insomnia sleep longer and more deeply than the control group. It also helped them feel more energized during the day.
You can be flexible with the kind of exercise you choose. It appears that either aerobic exercise combined with resistance training or aerobic exercise alone can equally help sleep quality. (11)
SUMMARY: Regular exercise regardless of whether it is a combination of aerobic and resistance training or aerobic exercise alone will help you sleep better and feel more energized during the day.
Also read: How to lose weight while you sleep
Exercise improves the ability to focus on one task with no distractions. It also helps you to hold and manipulate information. Aerobic exercise improved retention among students and therefore crucial for children, adults and the elderly as well.Exercise improves the ability to focus on one task with no distractions. Click To Tweet
A study published in the Indian Journal of endocrinology and metabolism shows that an active exercise training program was ideal for losing weight and improving physical fitness among obese children. The effects were possible even without a change in the dietary composition.
Several studies have shown that obesity and weight gain can be attributed to inactivity.
To understand how exercise causes weight loss it is crucial for you to know the relationship between energy expenditure and exercise. The body usually spends energy in 3 major ways: maintaining body functions like your breathing and heartbeat, exercising and digesting food.
When you are on a diet and are in-taking fewer calories it will lower your metabolic rate which in turn slows down weight loss. Studies (12) (13) (14) have shown that exercise increases your metabolic rate which in turn speeds up weight loss thus help you burn more calories.
The more muscle you have on your body the less fat you have. Studies (15) (16) (17) (18) have shown that combining resistance training and aerobic exercise increases muscle mass maintenance and fat loss which is important because it keeps the weight off.
SUMMARY: Exercise increases your metabolism thus helping you burn more calories daily. Exercise is crucial for maintaining weight loss and muscle mass.
Also read: 7 Simple steps to get in shape fast
Physical exercise is a great mood enhancer. The feeling of elation experienced after exercise is real and should be used as an alternative stress reliever. A 2010 study conducted for 8 weeks showed a significant decrease in the amygdala after yoga and meditation. The amygdala is part of the brain that is implicated in processing stress, fear and anxiety. The amygdala, therefore, is responsible for stress, fear, and anxiety.
Chronic disease has been attributed to lack of regular exercise as one of the major causes. (19)
On the contrary, failure to engage in regular exercise — even for a short while — can lead to a remarkable increase in belly fat-which in turn increases the risk of heart disease, early death, and type 2 diabetes. (23)
Regular exercise can help delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by 60%. Daily physical activity, aerobic training or resistance training prevents sugar build-up in the blood. Insulin sensitivity increases and the body can take up glucose during and after activity.
SUMMARY: Regular daily exercise is important to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and maintain a healthy weight.
High-frequency training and low-frequency training both contribute to improvements in lean mass and strength in mass of both men and women. Strength training also helps in alterations in metabolism; increasing bone density, reduce the risk of injury and even rebuild lost muscle. The build-up of muscle is necessary for preventing metabolic syndrome that causes obesity. High-frequency training and low-frequency training both contribute to improvements in both lean mass and strength mass in all people.
SUMMARY: high-frequency training and low-frequency training both contribute to improvements in lean mass and strength in the mass of both men and women.
Also read: 5 Cardio Mistakes Which Make You Fatter
Research has proved that people who exercise tend to be happier. Exercise is a stress reliever. Exercise improves your mood and reduces feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. (26). Exercise increases sensitivity of the brain for the hormones norepinephrine and serotonin which eliminate feelings of depression. Exercise also increases the production of endorphin which produces positive feelings and also helps reduce the perception of pain.
Exercise has been proved to eliminate symptoms in people suffering from stress and anxiety. It can help anyone suffering from anxiety to be more aware of their mental state and practice distraction from their fears.
The Intensity of the work out usually is not a determinant of the level of mood enhancement! Exercise enhances your mood no matter the intensity of the work out.
In fact a scientific study conducted on 24 women who were suffering from depression showed that exercise of any intensity remarkably lowered feelings of depression.
The effects exercise has on mood are so strong that choosing whether to exercise or not to exercise even makes a difference over short periods.
One study asked 26 healthy men and women who normally exercised regularly to either stop exercising or continue exercising for 2 weeks. The individuals who stopped exercising experienced increases in negative mood.Regular exercise enhances your mood and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety. Click To Tweet
One study discovered that 6 weeks of regular exercise lowered fatigue feelings for 36 healthy people who had reported persistent fatigue.
In fact, exercise seems to be more effective at fighting CFS than other treatments, including passive therapies like stretching and relaxation, or no treatment at all . (31)
Furthermore, exercise has been proven (32) to increase energy levels in people suffering from progressive illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and cancer.
SUMMARY: Regular physical activity boosts your energy in all people even those suffering from serious illnesses and those with persistent fatigue.
Physical exercise delays the onset of mental wear and tear and dementia especially among the elderly. It pays to exercise early in life to avoid mental illnesses that come with old age. A study published on the neurology suggested that women who are physically fit in their middle ages were 88% less likely to develop dementia than their peers who were moderately fit.Physical exercise delays the onset of mental wear and tear and dementia especially among the elderly. Click To Tweet
The level of oxidative stress in your body affects your skin. Oxidative stress occurs when the body’s antioxidant defenses cannot completely repair the damage that free radicals cause to cells. This can damage their internal structures and deteriorate your skin.
Even though exhaustive and intense physical exercise can contribute to oxidative damage, regular moderate exercise can increase your body’s production of natural antioxidants, which help protect cells. (33) (34)
In the same way, physical activity stimulates blood flow and induces skin cell adaptations that can help delay the appearance of skin aging. (35)Moderate exercise promotes blood flow and provides antioxidant protection which delays signs of aging and protects your skin. Click To Tweet
According to a study published in the journal of aging research, it suggests that physical activity maintained throughout life is accompanied with a lower risk of developing chronic conditions such as
All these diseases are associated with chronological aging.
Exercise helps to reduce chronic pain which can be very debilitating (36). In fact, for numerous years, the recommendation for treating chronic pain was inactivity and rest. However, recent research shows that exercise helps relieve chronic pain.
A review of several studies proved that exercise helps participants with chronic pain reduce their pain and improve their quality of life.
Several studies prove that exercise helps control pain that’s associated with various health conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic low back pain, and chronic soft tissue shoulder disorder, among many others.
SUMMARY: Exercise increases pain tolerance and has favorable effects on the pain that’s associated with various conditions.
When done on a regular basis, physical activity both moderately and intense, lowers the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Regular exercise strengthens the heart muscle and its ability to pump blood to the lungs and the rest of the body. The lungs automatically pick up the pace to keep up with the exercise and therefore become stronger as well.
Physical exercise like weight lifting stimulates building of muscles when combined with enough protein consumption. Exercise is extremely beneficial to your bones and muscles. This is because exercise helps trigger the release of hormones that promote the ability of your muscles to absorb amino acids. This reduces muscle breakdown and helps muscles grow. (39) (40)
People tend to lose muscle mass and function as they age which can lead to disabilities and injuries. Practicing regular physical activity is essential to maintaining strength and reducing muscle loss as you age. (41)
Exercise also helps prevent osteoporosis later in life as well as build bone density when you are younger. (42)
Interestingly, (43) high-impact exercise such as running or gymnastics, or odd-impact sports, such as basketball and soccer have been shown to promote a higher bone density than non-impact sports like cycling and swimming.
SUMMARY: Physical activity not only helps you prevent osteoporosis but also helps you build strong bones and muscles.
Regular physical activity and exercise are effective in lowering cholesterol levels in the blood and thus preventing the onset of coronary heart diseases, heart attacks and strokes. Clinicians recommend aerobic training or resistance training to ensure that healthy cholesterol levels are achieved.
A group of women in their 40s observed that they experienced orgasms more frequently when they incorporated more strenuous exercise, such as sprints, boot camps and weight training, into their lifestyles. (51)
Also, among a group of 178 healthy men, the men that reported more exercise hours per week had higher sexual function scores (52)
One study found that a simple routine of a six-minute walk around the house helped 41 men reduce their erectile dysfunction symptoms by 71%. (53)
Another study performed in 78 sedentary men revealed how 60 minutes of walking per day (three and a half days per week, on average) improved their sexual behavior, including frequency, adequate functioning and satisfaction.
What’s more, a study demonstrated that women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome, which can reduce sex drive, increased their sex drive with regular resistance training for 16 weeks.Exercise helps improve sexual desire, function, and performance in men and women. It can also help lower the risk of erectile dysfunction in men. Click To Tweet
Any form of physical activity that helps the body burn calories eg walking, cleaning, running, swimming, dancing and sports is beneficial and should be included in daily routine.
Daily physical activity and a variety of exercises, have significant improvements on the brain and the body amongst children, adults and the elderly. Therefore, it is important to do regular exercise in our daily routines to maintain a healthy body and also prevent lifestyle diseases.
Exercise has amazing benefits that can improve nearly every aspect of your overall health.
Regular exercise can increase the production of hormones that help you sleep better and make you feel happier.
It can also help you lose weight and keep it off, lessen the risk of chronic disease, improve your skin’s appearance and improve your sex life.
Whether you practice a specific sport or follow the guideline of 150 minutes of activity per week, you will inevitably improve your health in many ways. (54)