Many of us choose to start our health and fitness journey with goals of losing some weight, gaining some muscle, getting stronger, or generally feeling more capable in our physical abilities. While these are all great goals to strive for, there are many other great benefits of exercise that may surprise you. Below I will discuss three surprising benefits exercise can provide. The great part is, you don’t need to be able to perform a hardcore workout to get them!
1. The brain boosting power of exercise!
If you have ever felt groggy, had a foggy brain, or just felt a bit off mentally, there is a way you can easily give your brain an extra boost! It has been well studied that exercise can help change your brain for the better. Specifically, regular aerobic exercise can increases the size of your hippocampus. This part of the brain is responsible for learning and memory. When you perform aerobic exercise, chemicals in the brain are released that directly influence the health and number of your brain cells!
To get the brain boosting effects of exercise, all you need to do is start exercising! It should be noted that you can get the brain boosting effects from many different kinds of exercise. Also, you don’t need to participate in exercise that is intense or extra stressful. Walking and other forms of activity that increase your heart rate and promote increase blood flow could help you achieve brain health benefits. Consistency is key to long term health and brain power. Choose an activity that you can perform for 30 minutes at least 5 times per week.
2. Grow your bones!
No, exercise will not turn you into a NBA player, but it will help your bones become stronger! Much like the growth in size and mass of your muscles when you perform certain types of exercise, your bone mass or density can increase with certain types of exercise. The best type of exercise to perform for increase bone density, is weight bearing exercise. Weight bearing exercise refers to any activity that forces your muscles to work against an external force. A great example of this type of training is when you participate in resistance training exercise. Examples of exercise that are limited in their effects on bone density include swimming and cycling activities.
The most important factor when starting a training program to help increase your bone density, is to talk to your doctor about the kinds of exercise that are safe for you, especially if you have osteoporosis or other conditions that are effecting you bone mineral density. Getting help from a certified fitness professional is also advised so you can learn how to perform great bone building exercises. Along with resistance training exercises, you must also include a healthy diet rich in vitamin D and calcium to assist in healthy bone growth.
3. Reducing the negative effects of stress!
We all experience different levels of stress throughout our lives. Physical activity has become one of the best ways to help fight off the negative effects stress can have on our health. Living with high amounts of stress has been shown to have some very negative effects on our physical health. Increase risk of heart disease has been associated with those who regularly feel stress and anxious. High blood pressure, depression, and tension can also be symptoms of stress.
By simply switching your focus to an exercise activity, you can help redirect your stress response to the internal exercise stress, which can help negate the harmful effects of the external stressors you may have been experiencing. Many people report feeling a boost in their mood as wells as a sense of clarity and calmness during and after exercise.
Most types of exercise can help you decrease your stress. Although, if you are feeling stressed before you start your exercise, you should choose an exercise that you enjoy. This will help encourage you to participate in the activity more regularly so you can reap the benefits of an active lifestyle long term.
For more great information on the benefits of exercise, make sure to check out the 9-5 Fitness podcast. We bring you more details about the surprising benefits of exercise, and other practical ways you can start a healthy exercise program. Be sure to check out our other helpful podcast episodes were we cover topics ranging from marathon training to unusual diet trends.