Learning about the hidden benefits of exercise can motivate you.
Ivonne Ackerman, Yogi | Barre Certified Teacher | NYC #Fitness #Blogger | The Sweat Glow | Manager for NYCB
Exercise more, work out in the morning, do more yoga, train and run a marathon, work on strength, be FITTER…many people’s 2017 New Year’s resolutions are geared towards leading a healthier, more active lifestyle. The degree may differ person to person. But, the resolution to start an exercise routine or improve some aspect of their current routine is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. According to a study from the Statistic Brain Research Institute, roughly 42% of Americans made New Year’s resolutions for 2017. The most common resolution — made by almost a quarter of every person making one — involves increasing fitness and activity.
It is easy to set an exercise related resolution; it is not so easy to keep it. As the months pass, we desert our resolution as genuinely as we make it. According to a Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll, almost half of New Year’s health-and-fitness commitments deplete by midyear. Along with a cold front, January brings in a lot of motivation and good business for gyms as people are more driven than ever to embody the “New Year, New You” mentality. However, by summer, the motivation to keep up New Year’s fitness goals starts dwindling.
Why Are Many Fitness Related Resolutions Doomed to Fail?
We expect instant gratification and instant results from our workouts and fitness regiments. Just as we use Uber to avoid waiting for a cab and Tinder to avoid the long wait to find the perfect soulmate, we don’t want to wait for the results of say, waking up early to get a workout in or changing our already busy lifestyle to incorporate exercise. So, it can be difficult to stick to your resolution if you’re only looking for results in the mirror. Why? Because it can take longer than you think to see changes in your outward appearance. For many the reward does not justify the effort. Hence, many people jump ship before December comes along. Before you are able to say “resolution resolved.” The motivation is just not there anymore.
Change Your Perspective on Fitness, and Resolve Your Resolution.
There are tons of tricks to help make your New Year’s goals stick. However, in addition to tools, the way to make fitness goals last is to see the value of fitness way beyond rocking that #sweatyselfie. We need more inspiration than just getting “bikini-ready.” This will change our perspective and make fitness part of our life. The truth is that a commitment to fitness shapes your overall attitude and experience more than it does your body shape. The secret is to be able to recognize the endless benefits of exercise. In this way, we will overcome the thoughts like “too much work for too little change in my appearance.” When you change your mindset and realize how your day can change for the better by adding a fitness routine to your lifestyle, the probabilities of resolving your New Year’s goals are much higher. We need to be inspired by the multiple benefits in order to keep up the motivation. Here is my story on how I made fitness part of my lifestyle. You will see that it changed my mindset way more than my body.
The Secret Is Knowing the Ways Exercise Enriches Your Day-To-Day Life.
There is no doubt that exercise makes you healthier. The health benefits, including reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer and diabetes, have been the subjects of many years of scientific research. In addition to the endless health benefits, strong muscles, and a leaner physique, exercise can enrich your daily life in other, more “hidden” ways.
Each of these ways can help cement your New Year’s resolution. Knowing these “hidden” benefits will cause your fitness resolution to inspire you every day — or at least 5 times per week. The importance of being inspired to keep pursuing your goals is summed up by Emanuel Maidenberg, Ph.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California in Los Angeles: “If each morning you have to find a way to make your goal happen, you’re more likely to decide based on whether you feel like doing it, which we rarely do.” Inspiration should be there every day so we don’t loose our motivation.
Top “Hidden” Ways Exercise Improves the Quality of Your Everyday Life
Exercise can add more happiness to your day. When you exercise, ‘happy chemicals’ are released in your brain. These are: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. These neurotransmitters can be called ‘happy chemicals’ since they are responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness: they work together to make us feel good. Many events can trigger these neurotransmitters, but instead of taking the passenger seat and waiting for these events to happen to us, we can find ways to activate these chemicals and one way is through exercise. So by scheduling in that gym time, we take an active role in boosting our mood. It is no surprise that a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1999 by Harvard Health Publications, suggested that exercise could be a substitute for antidepressants. The takeaway is that exercise can contribute to a more positive state throughout your day which in turn impacts your motivation, productivity, and overall well-being.
Exercise raises your energy levels and fights fatigue. Any exercise or physical activity that gets the heart rate up and the blood flowing and releases endorphins, is going to raise your energy level. As Pete McCall, Exercise Physiologist at the American Council On Exercise has stated: “If a sedentary individual begins an exercise program it will enhance the blood flow carrying oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue improving their ability to produce more energy.” Good cardiovascular exercises will strengthen your heart and give you more stamina. Exercise literally creates energy in your body. Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a nutrition adviser for the Journey for Control, a diabetes program, explains that this happens in the cellular level with our tiny organs called mitochondria that produce energy in our bodies. The number of mitochondria you have — and thus your ability to produce energy — is affected by your daily activity. It can be explained that the more we exercise aerobically, the more mitochondria the body makes to produce more energy to meet our needs. Robert E. Thayer, PhD author of Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood With Food explains further: “It’s now been shown in many studies that once you actually start moving around — even just getting up off the couch and walking around the room — the more you will want to move, and, ultimately, the more energy you will feel.” Even though a we may feel tired and suffer from fatigue and the last thing we want to do is exercise, actual research shows that getting off the couch and exercising will boost our energy levels.
Exercises as an antidote to daily stress. A study from the American Psychological Association in 2015 depicted how stress levels in the U.S. have risen over the past years. There’s even been an increase in the number of adults who experience “extreme stress,” with 24% reporting they were highly stressed last year, compared with 18 % the year before. Younger adults also reported higher stress than in the past generations. New Yorkers report an average stress level of 5.2. on a 10-point scale (healthy stress level is defined as 4.0). It’s been reported that exercise lowers levels of stress. When you exercise, you’re actually subjecting yourself to a low-level form of stress by raising your heart rate and triggering a burst of hormonal changes. “Expose yourself to this ‘stress’ enough and your body builds up immunity to it. Eventually, it will get better at handling the rest of life’s stressors,” says clinical psychologist Jasper Smits, Ph.D., coauthor of Exercise for Mood and Anxiety. Let’s be real, as we get older our daily stressors increase, whether it be poor communication, difficult coworkers, anxiety over money, family problems, etc. We face stressful situations everyday and why not indulge in some fitness time if it is able to reduce our stress, even by a little bit.
Exercise eases anxiety by creating vibrant new brain cells — and then shuts them down when they shouldn’t be in action. These new brain cells are easily excited, which is not ideal when want clear thinking and good memory. They are even less ideal during times of everyday stress. If a stressor is not a life-or-death situation we want those new brain cells to be shut down when not required, and that’s what exercise does, according to recent studies. Also, the effects of exercise show that in people suffering from anxiety, the immediate mood boost from exercise is followed by longer-term relief, similar to that offered by medication and talk therapy. In fact, according to Daniel Landers, a professor emeritus in the Department of Kinesiology at Arizona State University, exercise seems to work better than relaxation, meditation, stress education and music therapy at easing anxiety.
Exercise makes you smarter by feeding your brain. It helps feed valuable oxygen and nutrients to your brain to improve cognitive functioning. Just think about it: How do you feel after you exercise? I feel very differently on the day that I go to work in the morning after exercising. On those days I am able to concentrate more. The days that I don’t exercise in the morning, I feel groggy and sluggish. Exercise makes you feel alert and focused; mentally and physically prepared to achieve your 2017 goals.
It gives you increased confidence. When you start working out and achieving goals you never thought possible, you’ll feel an incredible sense of accomplishment. Just the success of creating an exercise plan and sticking to it allows you to enjoy a sense of achievement. It also boosts your personal body image since you become more toned, have a balanced weight, pleasing proportions, better posture, and increased vitality. This boost in confidence extends to other areas of your life, including your relationships, decision making, and your work.
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“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”
- MARCUS AURELIUS