The reason most people hit the gym is to lose weight, or to train for a certain event.
Aside from weight loss and toning though, physical exercise has a lot of surprising benefits. It doesn’t even have to be the gym – you can do any activity you like, whether that’s walking the dog or learning how to dance the tango.
If you’re struggling to get yourself motivated, here are some benefits of exercise that might get you into gear.
Exercise is the best stress reliever. A session at the gym releases endorphins, improves your mood, and often leads to you forgetting about the things that had stressed you out because you were focused on your workout instead, giving you a chance to make sense of things. The best thing is, the anxiety-reducing benefits of exercise are noticeable after just five minutes of physical activity.
Exercise has a lot of physical effects on the brain. It has the ability to reduce insulin resistance, and inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors. It can also actually increase the size of the hippocampus, which is responsible for verbal memory and learning. Thus, exercise is able to improve cognitive function, which not only increases your protection against age-related cognitive decline and dementia, but also means that you can improve your memory and thinking skills right now.
When done right, exercise should strengthen and supple your back, leg and stomach muscles. Developing a strong core is key to alleviating back pain, as a strong core will support your skeleton and ligaments, which puts less pressure on your back. If your pain is severe, gentle swimming is a good exercise to begin with as it is not weight bearing. Yoga or pilates can also be very useful.
And this self-esteem isn’t linked to weight loss, muscle tone or anything else. Aside from the feel good hormones that are released during exercise, research has shown that no matter how long or hard you push yourself, simply making the effort to go and exercise will boost your self-esteem even if you’re not dropping the kilograms the way you expected.
Exercise can benefit your immune system by bringing about physical changes, including an increase in speed of disease-fighting cells and an increase in the production of macrophages. However, exercising too hard can have a negative effect on your immune system so the key is exercising regularly and without pushing yourself to your absolute limits.
Regular exercise can help improve your sleep, so if you’re tossing and turning at night, consider hitting the gym more often. Just remember to leave a few hours in between exercise and bedtime, otherwise the extra stimulation will actually make it harder for you to nod off.
So if you’ve been putting off your regular gym date, remember that working up a sweat has so many more benefits than just losing weight or gaining muscle. You can even reduce your life insurance premiums!