Most people know that exercise makes you physically healthy, but what’s less commonly known is the intricacies of such benefits to our emotional and spiritual health. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest and healthiest benefits to exercise that we know of!
Now, we’ve compiled a massive list here, and have sorted it into 3 predominant categories. The first category encompasses psychological (mental, emotional, and spiritual) benefits. The second category encompasses physical benefits, and the third category are the preventative benefits.
Let’s do this!
CATEGORY 1 – THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
Exercise is one of those things that really affects all areas of your life, and psychologically this is no exception. When you exercise, one of the many functions that takes place in your body is that your heart rate increases, producing not only a stress on the body, but also the resulting rush of energy as the body compensates for the tearing of muscle tissues, further releasing endorphins throughout your body, such as Oxytocin: the Love hormone.
With the rapid increase in production of these harmony-hormones and the blood circulating through the body, you might see this as an electrical surge taking place which increases the brain’s cognitive function instantaneously. The brain experiences a wide number of benefits from “turning up the juice” as it were – almost immediately, including cognitive ability.
Many studies have demonstrated that learning and retaining information becomes significantly easier after a workout, both for long and short term memory. This increase in brain and heart activity is also tremendously supportive towards tapping into our inner creativity, and getting passionate about whatever we’re working on or doing in any particular moment.
It also reduces fatigue and general tiredness, and even has been shown to reduce migraines and headaches. These all compound upon each other to support overall brain, heart, and physical health in general, which in turn gives the individual a stronger sense of control over their cravings – unhealthy habits often disappear, in favor of much better ones. Cognitive decline stops, and health returns to the body.
Thus, with overall brain health improving there are a number of new abilities which become available to us within our consciousness. This further impacts our emotional health was shown in a 2006 study where the found correlations between exercise and our self-esteem, help reducing anxiety, depression and negative moods! (Source)
We find that our ability to relax improves, sleep gets better, if we had particular cravings for overly sweet, salty, or fatty foods – exercise helps temper these cravings and creates a sense of self discipline.
One particular benefit that is both psychological and physical is that our intimacy improves, because of an increased level of stamina and even more importantly, your ability to connect with your partner and please them is seen to increase.
When you practice meditation, you will also find that regular exercise has been shown to couple with meditation quite well, increasing your ability to calm yourself and focus dramatically, which then furthers to create more mental clarity within.
One of the biggest benefits of exercise though, is that if you can maintain the practice on a regular basis (whatever that looks like for you), it helps your ability to set and achieve goals. By even maintaining one practice, it can build your self confidence, increase your willpower to set higher goals, and help you in so many areas of your life.
CATEGORY 2 – THE PHYSICAL BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
As we go along, you may find many correlations and parallels between these categories. Everything is connected, and so by exercising, when we see that our bodies produce and birth new cells, that correlates with all of the benefits of health that we discussed in category 1. Nevertheless, that is only one of the physical benefits of exercising!
Along with the onset of new cells, perhaps one of the most significant benefits of exercise is also that it keeps our DNA healthy! In a study published in the journal “Science Advances”, it was discovered that a regular practice of exercise actually slowed down cellular aging! Thus they found overall physical degeneration to dramatically slow down.
Of course, this is still only the beginning of the physical benefits seen by regular physical exertion. Along with the decrease in excess fat in the body, increased muscular and skeletal strength, and more physical energy in the body; it also aids in our ability to digest the food we eat, and even helps to reduce pain that we might experience. Many who exercise regularly also generally experience a feeling of “lightness”, less heavy and weighed down not only by stored fat in the body, but also by the increased cognitive ability in the mind.
One other significant benefit here is the reduction in cravings for drugs, and support for those who have experienced drug abuse. The addition of regular exercise to the addiction treatment, can significantly help people in their recovery.
CATEGORY 3 – THE PREVENTATIVE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
This final category is a more focused overview of the less healthy or “bad” things which go away when we begin exercising, as well as a list of diseases which are prevented by the regular practice of moving your body.
Topping the list, we have a wide array of diseases which have been scientifically observed to be preventable or even reduced by regular exercise. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention even lists physical activity as being able to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. (Source)
Even the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has labeled physical activity as being fundamental to preventing disease and that it has been shown to reduce the morbidity and mortality from many chronic diseases!
After seeing all of these studies, it’s probably safe to say that “exercise helps to prevent disease and maintain health in general”.
Exercise prevents a buildup of fat cells by burning the excess stored fat in the body. Thus clearing out the potential for toxins to get stored within those cells and thus further preventing sickness from being able to form within the body. Louis Pasture, renowned contributor to our medical field was quoted to imply that the germ is nothing, the terrain is everything! Maintaining healthy bodies helps us maintain an environment that germs and illness cannot survive within and therefore helps boost immunity to disease! (Source)
HOW TO GET STARTED
If you are not already exercising regularly, it can be quite a daunting feeling of “how to get started”, especially with the stigma which surrounds exercise in the world – it’s kind of like that one thing that we all think we ought to do, but don’t. Yet, incorporating even a short workout into our daily routine can have profound effects on our body – and what you put into it is what you will get out of it.
This doesn’t have to be a scary task, in fact it can be very exciting! We’ve listed 3 different methods below that you might employ in your life to get started exercising more regularly. Each of these operates at a different level of intensity, which has been scientifically demonstrated to have virtually the same effects on the body.
Method One – The Long, Slow and Gentle
The first method is the long slow and gentle approach, which is good for those who are just getting started or don’t have a lot of energy to do the other approaches just yet. This includes taking a long walk on a daily basis, lots of deep breaths, and enjoying nature. By the end of the walk you should feel tired though, so if at the end of the walk you are not, you might consider incorporating a little bit of a jog into your routine!
Another example of this might be a good hour of comfortable yoga. Obviously some forms of yoga are more extreme than others, but this would be a lighter practice but still gets you moving and posing, pushing your limits but not too hard.
Method Two – A Moderate Burst
This could look like a moderate workout for anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes, where you might be running or jogging (with walking breaks when needed), or going between lifting weights or doing push ups and sit ups, just something that pushes your system.
This could also look like a more intense yoga workout, or even doing “hot yoga”, which is pretty common nowadays, and is yoga in a very warm room which burns even more energy and gets the blood pumping!
Method Three – Short, Extreme, Hard-As-You-Can Intensity!
Studies have now found that even a short but very extreme hard-as-you-can workout for a fraction of the time of the previous methods has been demonstrated to have the same benefit of the longer workout. However, you have to really push yourself hard here! You gotta go for it, all out, push yourself to the limits, and do it at least 2 or 3 times to really get the benefits.
Thus, this could look like sprint-running, lifting weight, doing pilates, advanced yoga, and pushing yourself to the absolute limit. Of course being careful to always stretch first and being sure to rotate muscle groups to not overwork and damage your body. If you go too hard you can do more damage than good so be sure to listen to your body and get professional advice when needed for the best exercise routine for your specific body type.
In all likelihood, you will end up doing a combination of all three throughout your life. One of the biggest keys to remember is the striving for balance. You don’t want to work crazy amounts and burn yourself out for three days, but exercise comfortably (but still pushing yourself) to a place where you can continue the practice regularly without becoming overly exhausted, and still have room for the other practices in your life.