We all know that regular exercise is good for our health and well being. It can help us to maintain a healthy body weight whilst reducing our blood pressure and decreasing our risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It can also strengthen our bones and muscles and keep our hearts healthy. But the benefits of regular exercise extend way beyond just that. Here are some of the lesser known benefits of regular physical exercise.
Increases Mental Abilities
Whilst most people are aware of the physical benefits of exercise, few realise quite how good exercise is for their brain. When we exercise chemicals are released to our brain that can improve our thinking, learning and memory. By exercising regularly we can actually improve our brain and our ability to learn. Thinking, reasoning and learning are essential to our development at any age, and it’s a major reason why schools embrace the importance of sports and regular exercise from a young age. Exercise keeps our brain just as fit as our body.
Boosts Self Esteem
When we exercise our body release serotonin into the brain which is a well-known natural mood booster. As a result, exercise is now often prescribed to those suffering from depression or anxiety. It can help us feel happier and more positive by lifting our mood. It’s also been shown that exercise can make us feel happier and more confident about our bodies and how we look. This is because, we often begin to feel fitter, more energised, slimmer or more toned and this in turn, helps to increase our self-confidence and our self-esteem.
Helps Overcome Physical Limitations
Exercise has been shown to be beneficial to those suffering from physical limitations, particularly arthritis. Supportive forms of exercise, such as swimming, can help to support the body whilst keeping the joints moving and active. This type of exercise builds the muscles surrounding the joints and in so doing helps to reduce and alleviate arthritic pain. As humans we are designed to move and this human movement can help keep our bodies more supple and help us to recover and rehabilitate from injury.
If you find yourself hitting a mental block at work or just lagging towards the end of the work day then you may need to start exercising. Try just going out in you lunch hour for a brisk walk. Exercise has been shown to increase productivity levels in the workforce to such an extent, that many firms now invest in health club memberships or on-site fitness facilities for their staff to use. Studies show that workers who exercise regularly have more energy and are up to 60% more productive than those colleagues who lead sedentary lifestyles.
Exercise can be just as effective as a sleeping pill for many people. Exercise helps to burn calories and to tire us just enough to improve our natural abilities to unwind and relax. When we exercise, we raise our core temperature which keeps us awake, but when our core temperature subsequently cools, it signals to our body that it’s time for sleep and this process helps us to sleep more soundly. Scientists believe therefore that exercising a few hours before bedtime can be particularly beneficial for those suffering from stress or insomnia.
Reduces Mental Decline
As we get older our mind and our cognitive abilities decline. We may become more forgetful and we may have trouble with mental tasks we once found easy. The natural decrease in our brain cells which is a part of the aging process can often lead to conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Exercise has been shown to release chemicals that protect the brain, thereby improving our mental and cognitive abilities as we age, meaning that it can delay the start of Alzheimer’s and even reduce the progress of the disease.
Mark Egan is an advanced personal trainer at MotivatePT as well as a sports-scientist and functional movement specialist. He works with a broad range of clients of all ages, helping them to lead better lives through tailored exercise, lifestyle change and nutrition.