One of the things that held me back from pursuing my dreams for years was the lack of physical activity and the lack of willpower to get myself going.
It’s something we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives, I think.
The universe doesn’t give what you ask for with thoughts, it gives what you demand with action – Dr. MaraboliTweet This!
Sure, there are plenty of people who’ve reached their definition of success without the help of physical activity, but the ones who have made it a habit are overwhelmingly more.
By asking yourself this simple (but scary) question, you can really see exercise not as this exhausting “task” you “need” to get done, but as a tool – to improve your physical and mental health, performance in all areas of your life and general outlook.
Below, I outlined the top 8 ways exercise can make you healthier, happier and more successful. None of this is new or revolutionary and this list of benefits is certainly not full. But sometimes we all need a little reminder(or a little push) to improve ourselves. Here they are:
8 Ways Exercise Can Make You Healthier, Happier and More Successful (Click to tweet)
1.Exercise increases productivity
We all know that productivity is a driving reason for a better life. You can get more done in less time, finish your tasks in time so you don’t have to constantly be in a rush, complete that side-project you’ve been putting off and so forth. However, a lot of people struggle with being productive and a big reason for that is sedentary lifestyle.
Exercise can improve your energy levels and alertness. Most of our cells contain components called mitochondria which are often called the cell’s ‘’power plant’’. Mitochondria produces the chemical your muscles use as energy called ATP. This is where it gets better: regular exercise stimulates the development of new mitochondria within our cells and thus increasing our body’s ability to create more ATP over time. This translates not only to better physical performance but it also increases the energy flow to your brain for greater productivity.
Researchers at the Stockholm University tested this theory first hand. Six work places in the dental health field were asked to devote 2.5 hours a week for physical activity distributed in two sessions. During that year, the number of treated patients increased and the people benefited from better health thanks to exercise with less sick days taken.
This study shows us that we can use work hours for exercise and still obtain as high (or even higher) level of productivity and focus.
2.Exercise improves your memory
Exercise helps memory and thinking by direct and indirect means. The ability of exercise to release growth factor chemicals that affect the health of brain cells, growth of new blood vessels in the brain and the survival of new brain cells.
This study suggests that the parts of the brain that control memory and thinking (the hippocampus and medial temporal cortex) have a greater volume in people who regularly exercise versus people who don’t.
And not only is regular exercise going to boost your memory but it’s also been proven to be a great way to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease with multiple risk factors some of which are out of your control such as age and genetics, regular exercise is within your sphere of influence and it has been shown to cut the risk of developing any of the two diseases by up to 50%!
3.Exercise improves confidence and body-image
Regular exercise reduces stress, battles symptoms of anxiety and depression, improves cardiovascular health, reinforces good and healthy habits, improves your strength and functionality and a side-effect of all these benefits is increased self-confidence.
Just creating and sticking to a regimen and transforming your body creates a sense of achievement and well-being. Exercise also promotes fat loss and muscle gain both of which improve our body-image.
4.Exercise battles depression
It’s no secret that exercise improves your mood.
Your body releases a chemical called endorphin which not only reduces the pain and discomfort while exercising but also boosts your mood for the rest of the day. But here is where it gets even better: research has shown that just a few 20-30 minute sessions per week are enough to treat depression and it is one of the most underused treatments for these symptoms.
Here is a direct quote from one study:
Analyses of sub-samples within these meta-analyses show that exercise is effective for both men and women of all ages as well as those who are initially more severely depressed. Further, comparison of exercise program characteristics across the studies yielded insignificant ESs, indicating that exercise need not be lengthy or intense and that fitness gains are not necessary for patients to experience positive benefits. Therefore, in light of this added meta-analytic support, researchers have begun to recommend that depressed people should adopt physically active lifestyles to help manage their symptoms.
So the next time you’re feeling a bit blue, get up, get dressed and go for a simple 20-minute run. You’ll not only feel better by the end but that big tub of ice cream sitting in your freezer won’t seem nearly as alluring as before.
5.Exercise makes you appreciate ‘the process’
Whether your goal is to build muscle, lose fat or improve your performance, it takes time. Your body won’t change in a day. It takes a consistent effort to see the results but, oh, are they worth it. The pride you feel when your clothes feel loose and you need to go shopping again, the new strength milestone you reach, the mile further you run – those are some amazing moments.
But that’s not my point. Sure the feeling of pride and satisfaction is great but what is more important is you learn to appreciate the process. The sometimes grueling and exhausting process that needs to take place in order for you to become a stronger person.
The effort you put in today to change your body teaches you that nothing good comes easy but you don’t feel discouraged. You feel empowered because you know you’re tough enough to meet your goals.
6.Exercise helps reduce stress
We’ve all had that long, stressful day at work where nothing seems to be going in the right direction and the clock doesn’t seem to budge. We leave work stressed out and mentally exhausted. But this rough day can instantly become better with an exercise session.
Not only will exercising after work cause your body to release endorphins (which are natural mood boosters) but exercise also increases the concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
I’ve had many stressful days at work by the end of which working out was the last thing on my mind – but I still did it, I showed up, I put in the work and I felt at least 10 times better by the end of it and that long, stressful day felt like distant past.
7.Exercise improves your sexual health
Feeling tired, depressed and stressed out are all major causes for low libido and exercise battles each head on. But it doesn’t just stop there. Regularly exercising improves blood circulation and active men are much less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction compared to sedentary men. Exercise also improves physical performance and endurance.
On the other hand, exercise improves self-confidence and body image and improves energy levels. Regular training with weights has been proven to increase testosterone levels in healthy guys which is a surefire way to put the spark back into your sex life.
And the benefits are not just for guys, ladies. Regular physical activity can also lead to enhanced arousal for women, as well.
8.Exercise improves cardiovascular health and endurance
In the busy world we live in today, it’s very important to be able to work for extended periods of time. Whether you’re working a physical labor job or you have to run around all day, exercising regularly has been proven to improve cardiovascular health and endurance which makes so many everyday tasks easier to get done. Regular exercise increases your VO2 max which essentially means that your heart, lungs and muscles can effectively use more oxygen during exercise or other physical activity for better performance.
Exercise also lowers your blood pressure and reduces your LDL “bad” cholesterol both of which are responsible for the arising epidemic of heart disease & failure.
So, in conclusion…
…in this modern world we live today, we all need to find a way to make regular exercise a habit. We are becoming more and more sedentary and opening doors for many diseases.
Working out and staying active has many positive effects on us that stretch far beyond looking good. It can have a transformative power on your life for the better.
Is regular exercise a part of your life? Shoot a comment below and let’s discuss.
Philip is a fitness and nutrition blogger and founder of Theaestheticnation.com. He is a Certified Personal Trainer and has helped hundreds of people cut through the bro science and effectively build muscle and lose fat. He hopes to reach more people with his blog and ultimately make his goal of helping 100 000 people get fit. You can follow his blog on Facebook and Twitter.