5 Reasons Why Working Out is More Than Looking Good
So you want a body that looks like J-Lo, Jessica Alba, or Uma Thurman but dread that 5:30 a.m. spin class or 30-minute cardio session followed by weight training. Not to mention the nightmarish reality that 80% of your fitness goals are determined by what you eat (no more ice cream binges) and 20% by what you do. Before panic ensues, consider that your mood, your smarts, your boss, your cancer risk, and your overall health will thank you. It’s time to worry less about the reflection in the mirror. Here are 5 reasons your regular sweat sessions are more than looking good.
1. Better Mood
A brisk workout is like a bad mood repellent, boosting production of brain chemicals that ease stress and anxiety and make you feel happier and more relaxed. Research shows that exercise can be just as effective as antidepressants in treating mild-to-moderate depression. It can also prevent recurrent depression which is why it’s important to keep up an exercise regimen after feeling better. While researchers have yet to fully understand why exercise is so good for improving mood conditions, they do know that it works. This may be due to a combination of reasons, including:
- Exercise helps chronic depression by increasing serotonin (which helps your brain regulate mood, sleep and appetite) or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (which helps neurons to grow).
- Exercise increases your level of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters.
- Exercise reduces immune system chemicals that can make depression worse.
- Exercise helps by getting your sleep patterns back to normal. We know getting enough sleep can protect the brain from damage.
- Exercise gives you a focused activity that can help you feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Exercise limits the effect of stress on your brain.
2. Increased Memory
Exercise in known to strengthen your memory. Whether you’ve got an exam coming up or a big speech to give, you might want to hit your favorite gym class first. The Behavioral Brain Research journal conducted a study on young adults. The study found that a single session of aerobic exercise resulted in higher blood levels of hormones that are associated with a strong memory. According to Harvard Health, exercise boosts memory and thinking through both directly and indirectly.
The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.
Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.
Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.
3. Positively Impacts Your Performance at Work
Over the past decade, social scientists have gathered compelling evidence suggesting that there is a more immediate benefit of regular exercise: its impact on the way we think. Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work. Consider the following cognitive benefits, all of which you can expect as a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine:
- Improved concentration
- Sharper memory
- Faster learning
- Prolonged mental stamina
- Enhanced creativity
- Lower stress
Exercise enables us to soak in more information, work more efficiently, and be more productive. Instead of viewing exercise as something we do for ourselves—a personal indulgence that takes us away from our work—it’s time we started considering physical activity as part of the work itself.
4. Reduces Cancer Risks
According to the National Cancer Institute, physical activity decreases the risks of many types of cancer. There is ample evidence that shows that physical activity reduces the risks of colon cancer, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer, esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver cancer, gastric cardia cancer (a type of stomach cancer), kidney cancer, myeloidleukemia, myeloma, and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, and bladder.
Exercise has a number of biological effects on the body, some of which have been proposed to explain associations with specific cancers, including:
- Lowering levels of hormones and growth factors that have been associated with cancer development and progression.
- Helping to prevent obesity and its harmful effects.
- Reducing inflammation.
- Improving immune system function.
- Reducing the time it takes for food to travel through the digestive system.
5. Recharges your Batteries
Cardio of any kind, even at moderate pace 2-3 times a week, can boost energy levels by 20 percent and decrease fatigue by 65 percent. A run or cycle workout can also reduce exhaustion. This is because breaking a sweat raises your metabolism and increases production of the brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that keeps a stressed body feeling good. Dopamine twangs the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and helps with coordination, heart rate and vascular response. It’s the precursor to two other, less well known neurotransmitters; adrenaline and noradrenaline. Adrenaline increases heart rate, constricts blood vessels to minimize bleeding, and dilates the air passages. It also gives people bursts of energy. Basically, it makes the body feel as good and energized as the body ever can. Meanwhile, noradrenaline sends out brain signals which increase focus. The combination of dopamine and these two leaves people feeling alert and happy.
Don’t let the reflection in the mirror scare you from the real reasons you should be breaking a sweat. Instead ponder on the 5 reasons working out is more than looking good and get moving! If your looking for a place to conquer your workout fears contact us here!