If you are starting out on a new exercise program or struggling to get back in the gym, it can be hard to remember the reasons why. Most people exercise for simple reasons to exercise: “to lose weight” or “to get fitter.” However, regular exercise has a far more wide-ranging effect on your health and well-being than simply a smaller waistline or the ability to run faster. Regular exercise can boost your mental health and resilience; prevent injuries to muscles, bones, and joints; decrease your risk of cancer and other diseases, and contribute massively to your overall health and well-being.
The knowledge that regular workouts have such a comprehensive effect on your health should serve as motivation to start or continue with an exercise program: the more you work out, the better you will feel. However, it also serves as a welcome reminder that when you exercise – even if you have clearly defined, specific goals, such as winning a race or looking better in a bathing suit – you are always working toward a much larger goal: a better, healthier you.
1. Less Muscle Loss
Most of us can expect some decline in muscle mass over time, especially after middle age. However, regular workouts can help to reverse this decline, and it goes without saying that many people who work out regularly will experience muscle gains, depending, of course, on age and which sort of reasons to exercise is being performed.
Researchers at the University of Illinois discovered in 2014 that mesenchymal stem cells, which are triggered into action during exercise, can help spur on the generation of new muscle tissue, thereby rejuvenating skeletal muscles. Although this research was carried out on mice, the researchers believe that the research provides insight into human muscle regeneration, as well. It is further evidence that resistance exercise leads to greater muscle strength over time, which in turn affects balance and overall health and resilience.
2. Stronger Bones
Weight-bearing reasons to exercise can help protect the body from fractures and other bone damage, specifically by increasing bone density. Researchers at the University of Missouri discovered in 2009 that high-impact sports, such as running, have the greatest effect on bone density. When bones are subject to small amounts of stress, such as what they undergo when you run or play a fairly intense sport such as soccer or basketball, bone mineral intensity increases.
If you are already working out, you should consider adding intense, high-impact reasons to exercise sessions to your workout schedule. This could help reduce your risk of injury, especially as you age because a decrease in mineral bone density is one of the symptoms that define osteoporosis, which carries a higher risk of bone fractures and other injuries.
3. Stronger Joints
It is commonly believed that running and cycling are bad for the joints, but this may not necessarily be true. It should certainly not prevent anybody from running. Research conducted in 2011 at Monash University in Australia concluded that running may not be as bad for the knees as previously thought. In fact, researchers concluded that the impact of running can lead to increased cartilage production in the knees, which in turn can help prevent these joints from developing arthritis. This is a common theme: the bodily stresses associated with exercise can lead to health benefits over time.
4. Better Hearing
Women who exercise regularly are more likely to have better hearing, according to research conducted at Bellarmine University in 2012. Women with a high level of cardiorespiratory fitness had a better hearing at both high and low frequencies. This is a surprising connection, but yet again it confirms how regular reasons to exercise can result in quite unexpected benefits, leading to a net health benefit that cannot be ignored.
5. Better Brain Function
If you are having trouble concentrating on a school assignment or are feeling a little sluggish at work, try exercising. Regular exercise, especially at stressful times, can help keep your head feeling clear and make problem-solving easier. According to research carried out by researchers at Neuroscience Research Australia and elsewhere, exercise can assist with problem-solving and memory. Regular exercise has also been suggested as a way of alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The links between regular exercise and brain function are very well-established, so next time you want to banish the fog, try working out!
6. Healthier Skin
Low or moderate amounts of caffeine, when combined with exercise, can have a surprising health benefit. In 2010, researchers at Rutgers University experimented on combining caffeine and exercise. Mice who had a moderate intake of caffeine and regularly exercised on a wheel had a significantly lower instance of skin cancer. Researchers believe that this may have human applications: regular exercise could lower your risk of developing skin cancer, especially skin cancer which is associated with sun damage. It may also prevent skin damage, leaving you looking younger and more vital.
7. Decreased Risk of Cancer
Scientists have known for years that exercising regularly can lower your risk of developing cancer and dying from it. Several studies have established strong causal connections between regular exercise – the more regular and intense the better – and lower rates of cancer, including cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, lung cancer, and breast cancer.
8. Relief from Migraine
Research carried out at the University of Gothenburg in 2011 showed that exercise can be just as effective as drugs at preventing migraines. Migraine patients were asked to exercise three times a week, for 40 minutes. There was no difference in the preventative effect between the three groups – migraine sufferers who exercised reported that their migraines were as controlled as those who took the drugs. Although exercise is not a cure for migraines, it can certainly effectively prevent migraines in some sufferers. As regular exercise increases well-being overall, it is certainly a good option.
9. Mental Health Benefits
The effects of regular exercise on mental health are well-known, and strong causal links have been established in several studies. Regular walks can help to alleviate depressive symptoms, while regular, intense exercise can help to combat anxiety. Exercise programs have also been suggested to help adults and children with ADHD control some of the symptoms of their disorder. Even if you are extremely busy, it is therefore important that you take the time out to exercise – your body and mind will thank you for it.