You’ve probably heard it a million times before — the key to a healthy life is a balanced diet and exercise. What many people don’t realize is the wide range of ways that exercise truly helps improve your overall health. From keeping your weight in check to sleeping better, these are 5 benefits of regular exercise that make you healthier — inside and out. It’s important to understand this as it builds intention into why you want to exercise, which helps you build your own motivation and momentum. It also enables you to notice changes across many different aspects of your life beyond the physical changes.
#1: Physical fitness
The most obvious benefit of exercising regularly is that it burns calories and builds muscle. Even doing light exercise for 30 minutes per day can help you counteract the effects of an otherwise sedentary life.
For many, our diets consist of a couple regular meals, plus plenty of excess snacking, which can mean packing on extra pounds. By being active during the day, you can counteract (some of) the calories in those trips to the cupboard or fridge, helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Even if snacking isn’t an issue, spending all day stuck at your desk or lounging around the house can lead to muscular atrophy, leading to pain or reduced mobility. By being physically active multiple times every week, you’ll maintain your mobility and experience less pain or discomfort going about your daily life.
#2: Healthy internal organs
Another major benefit of regular exercise is healthy internal organs. Research shows that 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise every day can help reduce your risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and more. While much of it revolves around maintaining a healthy weight, the experts at the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health, and many others all agree.
By exercising regularly, you strengthen your heart as it works to pump blood faster and more efficiently to keep up with your activity levels. When you’re not actively working out, your heart can then function more effectively, acting as a beta-blocker to reduce blood pressure. Exercise also makes your muscles process the sugars you consume to fuel your exercise, leading to lower blood sugar and reducing your chance of diabetes.
#3: Increased Focus
Through a multitude of ways, exercise can be beneficial at improving both memory and concentration. By engaging in regular exercise, you reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, and increase the release of chemicals in the brain that help with cognition. All of this plays a key role in helping you focus and remember important information, especially when distractions are at an all-time high.
According to Harvard Medical School instructor of neurology Dr. Scott McGinnis, regular exercise also increases the overall volume (and capacity) of parts of the brain. Compared to those that don’t work out regularly, those “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.”
#4: Improved Mood
An incredibly important benefit of exercise, and one that we could all use a little of right now, is an increase in happiness. Biologically, when you exercise, your body produces endorphins, which give you a natural boost of happiness.
For those dealing with mild depression or anxiety, these endorphins released during exercise can also be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of both. This makes exercise extra beneficial during times of increased stress, serving as a natural medicine.
#5: Better Sleep & More Energy
One final major benefit of exercise is the side effect of many of the biological happenings with exercise — better sleep. When you improve your heart’s efficiency, normalize your blood sugar, decrease your stress, and feel happier, you are more likely to experience deeper, more restful sleep.
On top of that, by physically tiring your body, your body will go into a more productive recovery sleep, helping you wake up feeling rested. This leads to increased energy and focus during the day, making you feel happier and more in control.
By committing just 30 minutes a day to getting some exercise, enjoying some fresh air, and getting your heart pumping, you’ll see tons of physical and mental improvements with each passing day. Making exercise a regular thing also gives you a sense of control over part of your day. Blocking out 30 minutes each day on your calendar can help you see improvements in nearly every part of the remaining 23 ½ hours.