For a lot of people, exercise usually starts out with wanting to lose weight or “tone up”. And while there’s no problem with that, I wanted to also talk about the major science-backed ways exercise benefits your brain and body.
1. Exercise Reduces Inflammation (+ why does that matter?)
Many people are suffering from inflammation inside their bodies without even knowing it. Between environmental toxins, unknown food sensitivities that you might have, and eating processed foods, inflammation can wreak havoc internally.
Why does this matter? Because inflammation in the body is linked to a wide range of diseases and disorders.
The good news is that regular exercise, ideally, 5 days a week for 20-30 minutes, helps reduce inflammatory markers in the body and boost your immune system big time.
2. Exercise Slows Down Aging
One frequent conversation I have with women is that, although it’s important to take care of your skin on the outside, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on skincare regimes because the secret to true anti-aging is completely free. It starts with the food you eat and your exercise routine. It can completely transform your skin from the inside out.
How does it work? You have chromosomes in your body, and there are little caps at the end of the chromosomes called “telomeres”. These telomeres shorten as we age, but there’s a lot we can do that affects the rate at which they shorten over the years, and exercise is a very important one.
We now know that adults who are active and exercise regularly have nine years less cell aging than those who aren’t active. If that doesn’t light a fire under you, I don’t know what will!
3. Exercise Helps Prevent + Treat Depression
Studies have consistently shown that exercise can help treat depression and that people who are sedentary are a big risk factor for it.
Any time I’ve been in a slump (we’ve all been there) I remind myself of the times I’ve felt my best, and they all include regular exercise and getting my heart rate up. It instantly shifts my mood and makes me feel accomplished, which then flows into every other area in my life.
Regular exercise stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, and these brain chemicals play a really important role in regulating your mood.
If you’re struggling with depression, exercise might feel like the last thing you want to do. I encourage you to reach out to someone who will do it with you. Start small. 5 minutes a few days a week, and work your way up from there when you feel ready. Take one step at a time, try to do it outside in the sun if possible, and celebrate your wins, big or small!
4. Exercise Reduces Dementia Risk
Unfortunately, as we age, our brains shrink, but people who regularly exercise (even if they started exercising late in life) can increase their brain volume over time, leading to a much better chance of not developing dementia.
Exercise also boosts the chemicals that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of your brain for memory and learning.
5. Exercise Boosts Brain Power + Clarity
Studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance.
A 2019 study said that a tough workout can increase levels of a brain-derived protein called BDNF, which can help with decision making, mental clarity, and learning.
For me personally, I love working out in the morning for this exact reason. My exercise routine wakes me up, boosts my mood, and gives me the mental clarity I need to be on top of my tasks for the day and make the most of the time I have.
There are so many powerful reasons to exercise besides weight loss and toning up (although there’s also nothing wrong with those reasons).
I know for me, the reason I started working out regularly years ago was so I could start seeing some muscle definition. I was doing a lot of cardio and felt great, but I didn’t feel strong.
I started to incorporate weight/strength training into my exercise routine and I never looked back. I loved how strong I started to feel, and that I could finally see some muscle on my body. I knew that as I was getting older, my body could handle aging well and that I was in it for the long haul, not just an overnight fix.
My reason for working out regularly began as me wanting to “tone up”, and quickly turned into so much more. The mood boost, the mental clarity, the strength I felt, and all of the other amazing benefits were what I quickly fell in love with.
Wherever you are in your fitness journey, keep going. Try something new. Find a friend to do it with. Make a playlist that excites you. Set your workout clothes out the night before. Problem-solve around the obstacles that are keeping you from being the best you and putting yourself and your health first. You deserve it, friend.
Wishing you all of the mental clarity, strength, and joy in the way you love to exercise most.
Forever in your corner and cheering you on,