The upsides of exercise aren’t new. At the point, it’s pretty much indisputable that regular physical activity helps prevent and manage some chronic diseases. According to a report from the US Department of Health and Human Services, logging regular workouts reduces causes of mortality by up to 30%. While most of us know that exercise is good for things like heart disease and diabetes, we often fail to recognize the myriad of other benefits. Here’s a quick look at just some of the research.
Heart disease and stroke are two of our nation’s biggest killers, so they get a lot of the attention when it comes to research on the benefits of exercise. Regular activity of any kind can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels--two of the major markers of cardiovascular health. While many people think that you have to really get your heart pounding to see the health benefits of exercise, that just isn’t true. An article published in The American Journal of Medicine noted that after examining 22 studies, it was clear that even moderate exercise--as little as one hour per week of walking--was linked to lower rates of heart attack and stroke.
Everyone from your personal trainer to your mom loves talking about the “happy high” that comes as a result of endorphin-release. As usual, they’re not wrong. Here’s a little linguistics lesson: the word endorphins is a contraction of endogenous morphine. That’s because endorphins may produce a natural feeling of euphoria similar to opioids like morphine. But the mental health benefits of exercise go beyond just that temporary feeling of bliss you get after a run. According to a 2013 study, exercise can be as effective as medication in the treatment of depression. Another study conducted on people with ADHD showed that exercise can help increase motivation and reduce feelings of fatigue, confusion and depression.
Joints & Bones
How often do you think about your bones? Probably not very often. Most of us don’t think of our bones as changeable. But in fact, our skeletons are made up of living tissue that can get stronger through exercise just like other parts of the body. According to research, weight and resistance training can actually increase bone density over time. This likely explains why active people seem to have a lower incidence of fractures and other bone injuries than inactive people.
From memory to mood to muscles, regular exercise makes you healthier from head to toe. The great news is that you don’t need a lot of time or a lot of sweat to make a difference. A little work = big gains.