It’s never too early (or too late) to start thinking about exercise as a valuable part of your health regime. You don’t have to look like a fitness model, or even be at your ideal body yet: investing just a few hours a week can yield impressive benefits. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommends adults should get about 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic activity, along with muscle and bone strengthening exercise at least twice a week.
We’ve compiled a list of the 3 Greatest Health Benefits of Exercising to help illustrate the short and long-term ways that exercise can improve your quality of life.
Benefit #1: Better Sleep
It may seem obvious, but getting quality sleep and enough of it, is essential when it comes to your health. Regular exercising is associated with higher quality and longer duration of sleep. Having a good night’s rest makes you feel more alert throughout your day and gives you the energy you need to get things done. Sleep deprivation can lead to immune system impairment, memory loss and inability to concentrate. When sleep deprivation becomes chronic it can also put you at risk of heart disease and other serious illnesses.
People who exercise at least 150 minutes a week have on average 65% percent better sleep quality than those who exercise less. Exercise can also help in cases of sleep disorders. A study at Northwestern University found regular exercise to be more powerful than prescription sleeping drugs as a remedy for chronic insomnia.
According to the Canadian Medical Association, adequate sleep is important when attempting to lose weight7. Fatigue from sleep deprivation can influence the levels of hunger promoting hormones in the body. A recent study found sleep deprived people eat, on average, an additional 549 calories a day, over those who are well rested!
Exercise is the easiest and most natural way to ensure you get a good night’s rest and thus help maintain your health.
Benefit #2: Improved Mood and Reduced Stress
Exercise is also an important factor in promoting positive mental health.
When you physically exert yourself, your brain produces chemicals and neurotransmitters such as endorphins, which promote feelings of happiness and well-being. Endorphins also work as a natural analgesic (painkiller).
Exercise reduces stress through decreasing the body’s levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Left unchecked, chronic stress can affect your brain, nervous system, muscles and joints, heart, stomach, pancreas, intestines and reproductive organs.
Doctors and psychologists now widely agree that exercise enhances mood and reduces symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety. According to The Mayo Clinic, exercising for 30 minutes, three to five times a week is enough to significantly improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. The Canadian Mental Health Association notes that in clinical studies, exercise has been found to be as effective as psychotherapy in treating mild to moderate depression.
Working towards your fitness goals can improve self-esteem, body image and your sense of empowerment. Overall, exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve your mood and reduce stress.
Benefit #3: Disease Prevention & Pain Management
Starting to exercise now improves your chances of living a healthier, longer life. Staying physically active is also of tremendous benefit to those already dealing with a health condition.
If exercise is the path to optimum health, leading a sedentary lifestyle is the opposite – inactivity increases the risk of developing a number of serious health conditions. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends regular exercise to reduce the risk of many illnesses including: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some types of cancer.
Looking at the longer-term benefits of exercise – both middle-age men and women with good fitness levels have a decreased risk of serious illness later in life and into their 70s and 80s.
For those who are pre-existing health issue, such as back or joint paint, regular exercise can play an important role in pain management. For example, physical activity is beneficial to patients with rheumatoid arthritis as it provides pain-relief, builds muscle and helps maintains bone strength.
With all of these great health benefits in mind, we hope that you’re now feeling more motivated around your own fitness routine. Taking the time to add exercise to your life is an investment in your personal health, not just for the present but also for the years to come.