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When it comes to healthy living, we all know that it’s “for the best”, but how many of us know why that is?
Of course, there are the obvious benefits – building a great looking body, enjoying tasty, fresh food every day, and bragging about how many reps you can do at the gym, but there’s more to it than that – a lot more! You see, a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about regular exercise and picking the best diet plan to suit you – it’s about looking after all aspects of health, both physical and mental.
So, what exactly are these surprising benefits of exercise and what should you expect to gain, other than a set of abs you could wash laundry on? To find out, read on!
1. Optimizes Brain Function
First up on the list, it’s the ability to boost brain power that stems from regular exercise. We could all use that little bit extra brain juice, no matter who we are, and exercise helps to clear the mind, allowing you to focus and concentrate throughout daily life.
It’s a win-win situation – you’ll enjoy a sharp, alert mind and keep fit at the same time. However, the boost of brain power is far from the only mental health benefit that exercise promotes.
2. Improves Mental Well-Being
There’s plenty of clinical evidence to suggest that exercise can help reduce stress, depression and anxiety for those who suffer from any of these mental health issues. Much in the same way that exercise can improve cognitive ability, going for a jog, cycle or power walk can clear the mind and release the “feel-good” hormones dopamine and serotonin.
If you’ve ever heard the expression “runners high”, this is exactly what it’s referring to and it can be an integral part of any treatment designed to alleviate stress and a persistent low mood.
3. Supports Fertility
A number of studies have looked at the link between fertility and exercise, showing a clear correlation between obesity in women and the inability to conceive. However, even individuals who aren’t overweight can improve their chances of conceiving by becoming fitter.
Studies show that women who exercise not only have lower rates of infertility; they also have fewer instances of miscarriage.
4. Improves Your Skin
One of the benefits of exercise is it improves your skin in a couple of different ways. Firstly, it enhances the blood flow to your skin, giving it a healthy blast of oxygen. Secondly, when we exercise, we sweat, which can help unclog pores and reduce a build-up of acne-causing bacteria. The key here is to ensure you cleanse your skin thoroughly after your workout with a good quality, clarifying cleanser.
If you’re combining your new exercise program with a healthy diet, your skin will receive double the benefits! The best diet plan is one that focuses on fresh veggies, whole grains and ‘good’ fats such as those in avocado and salmon. Within just a few weeks of changing your eating habits, you’ll see a healthier, glowing complexion!
5. Burns More Calories As You Rest
This almost sounds too good to be true – regular exercise helps your body burn more calories even while you’re resting! How? Well, when we exercise, we generally add more muscle and, as muscle is more efficient than body fat at burning calories, this increases your resting energy expenditure – in other words, the number of calories burned. So, if your current exercise routine is mainly cardio, try adding some weight training to build up those muscles.
6. Improves Your Sleep
There’s no doubt that feeling physically tired from exercise will help you fall asleep faster but experts say you will also enjoy a better quality of sleep. Studies have shown that exercise increases the time spent in the ‘slow wave’ phase of sleep, also known as deep sleep, which will ensure you feel both physically and mentally restored the next day.
7. Keeps Bones Strong And Hard
Bone health isn’t something many of us think about, largely due to the fact that we can’t see or feel them! However, bone density loss is a big problem among older individuals’ especially menopausal women who are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. In addition to taking a calcium supplement, regular weight-bearing exercises can significantly improve the health of the bones making them stronger, harder and less likely to fracture.
8. Boosts Self-Esteem
This might be obvious but there’s no doubt that when you look and feel good, your level of self-confidence goes up! This isn’t to say you need to work out to excess in order to achieve the ‘perfect’ body – studies have shown that even the act of setting fitness goals and tracking your progress can significantly boost your self-esteem, make you feel more in control of your body and provide a sense of empowerment.
9. Reduces The Risk of Serious Diseases
And finally, what could be considered the most important surprise benefit of exercise – the reduced risk of several serious diseases including certain cancers. If you’re in a high-risk group or have a family history of cancer, talk to your doctor about ways to incorporate the right kind of exercise into your routine as a preventative measure. By starting off slowly and building the amount of effort and time put in, you’ll be able to create an effective, sustainable workout to keep any potential diseases at bay.
Whatever your age, gender or body type, adding exercise into your daily routine is one of the very best things you can do for both your long- and short-term health.
Don’t forget – choosing something you enjoy is essential, as it will make you more likely to stick to your plan, and finding a friend to work out with can also help motivate you.
Considering the overwhelming amount of data that supports the benefits of exercise, you owe it to yourself to put in the effort; however, as with anything health-related, always check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise and, once you have the all-clear, go for it – a fitter, happier, healthier you will be the best surprise of all!