Surprising Benefits You Might Not Know about Exercise
Is exercise part of your daily routine? If so, what are you doing it for? To lose weight, shape your body, or improve your overall health condition? If not, why not pick it up considering all the benefits it can bring you? Although we already have so many reasons to exercise, there are some more benefits that we are not aware of. Read on to know the unexpected benefits of exercise that may give you a surprise.
Slow down the aging process
Doing exercise doesn’t stop or put off aging, as aging is a natural biological process that affects everyone. By slowing down we mean that exercise can help slow down some of the negative effects and certain changes in your body brought on by aging. As we age, our bodies naturally experience declines in several aspects including muscle mass, bone density, and cardiovascular function. However, people who exercise regularly won’t be affected by these recessions as much as those who don’t. Because exercise improves muscle strength and endurance, increases bone density, and improves cardiovascular function. And you are therefore less likely to get hurt from accidents. As you grow older, your organ functions decline and metabolism slows down, increasing the chance of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, COPD, and arthritis. Regular exercise can improve blood sugar control, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation, all of which can help prevent chronic diseases.
Alleviate depression and anxiety
Studies have found that regular exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by increasing the production of endorphins, a kind of chemical in the brain that acts as natural painkillers and mood elevators. Exercise can also help reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which contributes to feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercise can also provide a sense of accomplishment and a positive distraction from negative thoughts and feelings, which bothers a lot. Additionally, physical activity can also help those with sleeping problems caused by depression and anxiety.
Improve learning and cognitive function
Just like building up the muscles, the more we use our brains, the stronger it becomes. A lot of exercises require a high level of concentration and high intensity of thinking. Therefore, exercise can enhance the brain's ability to form and retain new memories, as well as improve concentration and attention span.
Similar to the mechanism of the last one, increased blood flow to the brain stimulates the growth of new brain cells and the formation of new neural connections. This process is called neurogenesis and is linked to improved learning ability and memory.
Exercise has also been proven to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth and survival of neurons in the brain. Higher levels of BDNF have been associated with improved cognitive function, including learning, memory, and decision-making. And it is particularly important for older adults as it can greatly reduce the chance of Alzheimer's disease. According to a 2020 report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care, Lack of exercise is one of the key risk factors for developing dementia. So get moving!
Additionally, since exercise reduces stress and anxiety, it can help create a more conducive environment for learning and cognitive function.
Build up confidence
Regular exercise can improve confidence and self-esteem to a great extent. Engaging in physical activity can provide a sense of accomplishment and mastery, which can contribute to feelings of self-confidence.
Through exercise, we usually set goals, like running a certain distance, lifting a certain weight, or losing a certain weight. Accomplishing these goals can help build a sense of self-efficacy, or belief in our ability to accomplish tasks and achieve our goals.
Additionally, regular exercise usually brings you a good body shape and health condition, which can also contribute to feelings of confidence and self-esteem.
Moreover, as we have discussed, exercise can have positive effects on mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, improving mood, and reducing stress levels. Therefore, we tend to have more positive feelings about life and ourselves, resulting in improved confidence and self-esteem.
Despite all these benefits, exercise can be more than something we utilize to achieve a certain purpose. It should be an important part of our lives, a passion, a social connection between people, entertainment, and joy. In a word, exercise makes lives colorful.