Confession: Quarantine got the best of me and not only have I been MIA in the world of social media, I’ve also been slacking in the fitness department! After getting my body moving again these last couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling a new kind of energy- one that brings motivation, creativity and confidence.
Here are 10 incredible benefits of regular physical activity and exercise to help keep you inspired on the days you’d just really rather NOT.
- Boost your mood
There is no shortage of evidence-based research showing that regular physical activity is one of the best ways to decrease stress and increase relaxation. Since exercise releases endorphins, also known as one of the “happy hormones”, it is often equally as or even more effective than anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication. Especially when it comes to anxiety, which is often contributed to by a build-up of unreleased tension, exercise can provide a healthy outlet to help you feel better almost immediately.
- Reduce pain
Exercise can be an excellent tool for pain reduction, and under certain circumstances, can work in a manner similar to pain medications such as morphine (without the increased likelihood of addiction or other negative side effects). This is because the endorphins released during exercise interact with the opiate receptors in your brain to reduce pain. However, be sure to consult with your physician prior to beginning an exercise regimen, so as to not worsen the underlying cause of the pain.
- Improve sleep
Regular physical activity can help with insomnia, promote restful sleep, and even improve your overall sleep quality. Just be mindful of doing intensive cardiovascular activity too close to bedtime, as that can sometimes result in the opposite effect and actually keep you awake (of course, everybody is different and what works for some may not work for others).
4. Mental clarity
Exercising your body promotes positive changes inside of your brain – think of it kind of like a general brain boost. It is shown to help people think more clearly, improve memory, and even make them capable of smarter decision-making. The next time you feel like you’re in a slump, see how you feel after a solid workout; you’ll likely feel less foggy and more motivated to get things done!
5. Physical health
Then there are the obvious medical and health benefits of exercise, too many to list on this post. Working out will boost your immune system so not only will you be less prone to contracting certain viruses, but you’ll also be adequately prepared to fight them off in case you do. Perhaps the most obvious effect is that it reduces heart rate and lowers blood pressure, which in turn reduces risk of heart disease, diabetes, and countless other preventable medical conditions.
6. Increased energy
This one speaks for itself and I can attest to it personally; working out always gives me the energy I need to get through the day – without the crash that would inevitably follow caffeine or an energy drink. Especially when getting in your workout earlier in the day, exercise can provide a steady, long-lasting stream of energy, and bonus – you’ll burn more calories throughout the day than if you were to work out right before bed!
7. More strength
They say true strength comes from the inside, but exercise is what will help you increase your physical strength, which is also nice to have. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not only weight lifting that provides strength – it’s any form of exercise that challenges you mentally and physically. Weigh-bearing exercise also allows you to focus on toning up target areas, and increases bone density and joint strength for long-term benefits.
8. Flexibility, Posture, & Balance
This one is pretty self-explanatory; basically, depending on the style of exercise you choose, you can gain benefits such as increased flexibility, improved posture, and better balance. Yoga, pilates, general stretching, and properly warming up and cooling down before and after workouts are some of the best ways to reap these benefits. Focusing on specific exercises to strengthen your core can also help you improve your posture over time.
9. Higher self-esteem
In case you hadn’t noticed, those who incorporate regular physical activity into their daily lives often end up with higher self-esteem than those who do not (though this is certainly not always the case). Working out promotes weight loss, clear skin, increased feelings of confidence and accomplishment, and so much more. But don’t just workout for the physical benefits; work out because you love your body and if you treat it kindly then it will do the same for you.
10. Longer lifespan
Yes, last but not least, exercise literally saves your life and increases your lifespan. Not only does it generally contribute to a longer life, but it also promotes a better quality of life in the long run. This includes all the benefits mentioned above, along with the improved ability to maintain independent function in later stages of life.
The next time you’re tempted to skip your workout, be mindful of what caused you to feel that way. And then pull up this handy list of amazing benefits and imagine how you’ll feel after the workout. After all, the only workout you’ll regret is the one you didn’t do.