Everyone’s motivation to exercise is unique. Some people exercise because they love moving and feeling strong while others force themselves to exercise hoping it will help them maintain a lean figure; you may fall somewhere in between. However, exercise is essential for a number of other reasons. Lets see what the research says!
Here are 5 reasons why you should exercise on a regular basis (besides to look fit):
Great for brain health/cognition
It goes beyond the heart… Aerobic exercise (aka cardio) has been recently studied for its benefit on brain health. New studies are finding that anything that increases your heart rate also improves your brain health or cognition. A large meta analysis (systematic review of 39 scientific studies) found that physical exercise significantly improved cognition in participants over the age of 50 years old, regardless of their cognitive status. Another study compared 16 healthy elders with 16 elders with mild cognitive impairment over 12 weeks. Each group was placed on a moderate intensity walking program. This study found that the individuals with mild cognitive impairment showed significant improvements in their functional connectivity of the posterior cingulate cortex (an area of the brain) with regular moderate intensity walking.
In summary, exercise increases circulation to the brain and can help with cognition and brain health. Regularly exercising may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other signs of memory impairment. Feeling frustrated at work or by a situation, go for a walk. It will help clear your mind and you will be able to think clearer. Give it a try today!
Studies are looking at the impact of exercise on telomere length. You may be wondering what in the world are telomeres, well they are the compound structure at the end of your chromosomes that control aging. If your telomeres are shortening or becoming fragmented, you are aging much quicker. In other words, your chronological age may not be congruent with your biological age. So when we refer to longevity and anti-aging, we are talking about your biological age (you may not have to actually LOOK 50 at 50 years old). This report found that moderate to high intensity exercise most days of the week, may give you an extra 9 years of life on a cellular level.
We also know if you are not exercising you will have muscle atrophy (or muscle wasting) overtime and decreased bone density. Specifically strength training will help your body maintain lean muscle mass, protect your joints, and preserve bone density decreasing your risk of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and potential injuries.
Exercise is one of the world’s best natural mood stabilizers (plus it comes with no side effects). It has been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression, Another study looked at 15 countries (and 11,637 participants) and found that increased physical activity increased self-reported happiness. Next time you feel anxious, depressed, or sad, hit the gym or go for a walk because I guarantee you will finish in a better mood.
This is probably the most studied point and publicly talked about benefit of exercise, but I wanted to include it just in case. We know exercise helps reduce heart disease, diabetes, asthma, back pain, and arthritis. Remember just because you are genetically predisposed to a condition, does not mean it needs to be expressed. Lets do whatever we can to prevent these diseases/co-morbidities.
Forget coffee or energy drinks. If you are feeling exhausted, try getting up and moving! Stand up from your desk and walk around the building or convince your co-workers to join you for a walking meeting. Exercise helps increase circulation and it causes the mitochondria to produce more ATP, the bodies primary source of energy.
Remember exercise does not always need to be strenuous. So many of us look at exercise as black and white (me included). If you don’t have time to make it to gym for your regular 30-60 minute workout, you choose to do nothing instead. Don’t forget physical activity can be achieved at your house with no equipment. Work on moving more throughout the day. Try incorporating intervals into your daily routine. Its time to establish a reasonable and attainable workout for years to come!
Need workout ideas, try these no equipment workouts (once you get the workout, download the STAT Wellness App):
In good health,
Kristin Oja, DNP, FNP-C, PT-C