3 Amazing Benefits of Regular Exercise
Many adults begin an exercise plan for one of two reasons. One, they want to lose weight. Or two, their doctor gave them bad news about their health. Although losing weight is a great endeavor to undertake, as being at a healthy weight significantly reduces our risk of disease, focusing on preventing and/or stopping a disease process is also a worthwhile effort. The following three benefits are among what I believe to be some of the best perks of exercise and what helps me personally to stay consistent.
Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases
Disease seems to be a way of life, especially as we age. Hypertension, elevated cholesterol, pre-diabetes, and diabetes don’t have to happen though. One sure fire way to fight genetics and age is to exercise. As a matter of fact, research from the New England Journal of Medicine reported a reduction in coronary events by 30-40% in women from brisk walking or other vigorous exercise (1). In addition, another joint study between the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association found that both cardiovascular exercise and resistance exercise play a major role in the control of insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, gestational diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and diabetes related health complications (2). Exercise improves insulin action.
Finally, based on the findings of research by Kyle L. Timmerman, et al, inflammatory monocytes were reduced by up to 64% after a 12-week exercise intervention. What does this mean? It means a lower risk of all diseases as inflammation is at the root of many disease processes (3). This means that we can slow or stop disease in its tracks by adhering to a consistent exercise plan.
It’s hard to have a bad mood after a good workout. According to research, exercise improves mood, reduces anxiety and depression and improves self-esteem (4). Cardiovascular exercise in particular is believed to exert its benefits due to an increase in blood circulation to the brain. Additionally it is believed that psychological responses to exercise, such as self-efficacy and social interaction, lead to greater mood and overall motivation (5). According to Harvard Medical School, exercise can, in some cases, be more effective then medication in the treatment of depression.
Moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of deep sleep you get. During this stage of sleep the brain and body begin to rejuvenate plus the exercise helps stabilize mood and decompress the mind to help you fall asleep easier (6). Engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise can make a difference in quality of sleep as soon as that first night. The added bonus of a better nights sleep is that it compounds the affect of exercise in helping to reduce disease risks and depression.
The best time of day to exercise for good sleep will depend on the individual. Some people get too much of a mental pep from exercise, so doing it late in the evening will negatively impact their sleep. For others, it’s exactly what they need to help them doze off to sleep. You will have to play with it to discover your own personal best time of day to exercise.
To achieve these wonderful benefits, and many more, try to follow the American College of Sports Medicine recommendations for cardio and resistance training:
• Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).
• Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.
1 Manson, JoAnne E, et al. “A Prospective Study of Walking as Compared with Vigorous Exercise in the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease in Women”. N Engl J Med August 1999; 341:650-658. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199908263410904
2 Colberg, S. R., Sigal, et al. “Exercise and type 2 diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement.” Diabetes care, 33(12), e147–e167. doi:10.2337/dc10-9990
3 Timmerman, Kyle L., et al. “Exercise training‐induced lowering of inflammatory (CD14+CD16+) monocytes: a role in the anti‐inflammatory influence of exercise?”. Journal of Leukocyte biology. 29 July 2008 doi: 1189/jib.0408244
4 Callaghan P. “Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care?” J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2004 Aug;11(4):476-83. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2004.00751.x
5 Sharma, Ashish et al. “Exercise for mental health.” Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 8,2 (2006): 106.