…Exercise is the most potent, yet underutilized antidepressant. – Bill Phillips
Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. It also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep. And these lifestyle-related, chronic conditions are on the rise.
I’ve written on this topic before here, but it’s so important that it’s worth saying again. Convinced? If so,
More importantly, body movement is what the body was naturally meant to do. We aren’t meant to sit for hours on end in a car/plane/train or at a desk. So, let’s get motivated and make it simple to do. You don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health results. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough.
And you don’t have to do a particular kind of exercise. Here are some examples of different exercises that focus on different functions of your body:
- Endurance – brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming.
- Strength – carrying groceries, lifting weights, exercises using your body weight, Pilates.
- Balance – standing on one-foot, Tai Chi.
- Flexibility – stretching, yoga.
All exercise counts, even if you’re not participating in a sport or going to the gym. Weekend hikes, walking to the store and doing household chores also counts. Ever notice that you get hot and sweaty doing these sorts of everyday activities?
Specific health benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, reducing inflammation and managing blood sugar levels. They also come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and putting stress on your bones. Here is the research…
Exercise improves mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory. Aerobic exercise also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the “hippocampus“).
Muscles and Bones
Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones. Strength exercises are particularly important here. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to reduce the risk of or prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly. Balance exercises and Tai Chi are also important since they can help to prevent falls.
People with diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of good blood sugar management). Exercise does this because by contracting your muscles, you’re using the sugar in your blood.
This post is just a small snippet of the health benefits of exercise. By moving just 30 minutes 5 days/week, you can vastly improve your health in many ways. Since there are different types of exercise providing different benefits, try mixing up what you do throughout the week. You don’t even need an “official” workout. Walking to the grocery store or doing household chores can count too.
If you’re just starting, then pick something you enjoy. Get some accountability (an exercise tracker or a buddy), and just get started. My movement challenge is a great place to begin!