Ever felt like giving up or quitting in the middle of a workout? You may have felt so good and accomplished right after exercising, but did you know that the benefits of working out have kicked in as soon as you started? It might feel like torture, but your body and mind are literally thanking you.
Working out has many obvious physical benefits. Certain exercises can make you more flexible, others can make you stronger and your muscles bigger. With the right preparation like a pre-workout, exercise can make you feel more energetic. But there are more significant changes happening inside you that happen while exercising. Here are some of the biggest mental and physical benefits of working out.
Exercise has been scientifically proven to improve your mood. When working out, your body produces endorphins, a chemical that makes you feel good and happy. This is why exercise is recommended to those who experience depression or anxiety. While it may not cure these mental illnesses, exercise can certainly help alleviate their effects and can even be an alternative to medication in some situations.
Stronger Immune System
Did you know that exercise can help protect you against illnesses like the common cold? Working out helps increase your level of immunoglobins, proteins that fight infections and strengthen your immune system. According to the chief science officer of the American Council of Exercise Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., within just one hour of exercise, you are producing more immunoglobins that can boost your immune functions for around 24 hours. So, if you feel like you’re about to get sick, sweating it out can actually be good advice. But exercise doesn’t feel so good once you’re actually down with a cold or flu and can just spread to others, so stay away from the gym once you have the symptoms.
Exercise is one of the best ways to de-stress and relieve tension. While your heart and muscles may be “stressed out” because they’re working, your mind produces neurohormones like norepinephrine. This hormone improves your mood and cognition, making you feel more focused and lets you think more clearly. Stress can make your thinking and judgment feel clouded. By engaging in a workout that is either Zen and calming like yoga or freeing and high-intensity like boxing, the mind is refreshed and you think better afterward. Exercising also makes your mind more connected to your body. Your central nervous system is communicating with the rest of your muscles and your organs during a workout. Having a mindful workout session can ground you and bring more clarity to what’s clouding your mind. By de-stressing through exercise, you will also be able to handle stressful situations better in the future.
Checking one’s heart health isn’t so easy just by looking at someone. So while you might feel that exercise isn’t really doing anything because you’re not shedding any pounds, your heart is actually better than when you started out. Exercise raises your heart rate but lowers your blood pressure. Over time, you may notice that you’re not feeling as tired as you once did when working out. Regular moderate exercise can help strengthen your heart and allow it to be more efficient even at rest. This means that you have lower chances of developing heart diseases or suffering from heart attacks.
One of the biggest benefits of working out doesn’t even happen in the gym. It happens when you come home and get into bed! Sleeping is an important part of any healthy life. To function properly, the human body needs 8 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, there are many factors that contribute to bad sleeping habits. Exposure to light from screens and phones can disrupt sleep patterns. Stress from work or long commutes can also make you feel restless. You might be getting into bed early, but you’re not always having a good sleep. Exercise can be the remedy for this as it helps regulate your circadian rhythm, making you feel alert when you need to be and sleepy at night. Make sure not to work out too close to your bedtime as this can disrupt your circadian rhythm too.
Working out can help you think more clearly and handle stress more effectively, but that’s not the only thing it’s doing for your brain. Exercise makes your brain stronger too, making you better at thinking creatively and remembering things. Working out helps create new brain cells that promote stronger memory and boost intelligence. Studies also show that exercise helps reduce the chance of you developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent. Working out stimulates the brain’s function of maintaining old connections and making new ones, which in turn helps protect you from developing dementia.
Working out does a lot for your emotions and self-esteem as well. You can set goals such as lifting x number of pounds, running a marathon, or building more muscle. By working towards and achieving attainable goals, you will feel more confident in yourself. These goals are more attainable than you think as well, and might even surprise you. Setting reasonable goals is also an important skill that you can learn through exercise, as nothing happens overnight. This newfound confidence can transfer to the other aspects of your life such as work and relationships.
Lower Risk of Cancer
While cancer can affect anyone regardless of fitness level and the amount of exercise they do, a study showed that women who were at least moderately fit had a 33 percent lower chance of developing breast cancer. Those who were highly fit were 55 percent less likely to die from breast cancer than those who were sedentary. Exercise can also help prevent cancers in the reproductive system, such as endometrial and ovarian cancer. Since working out strengthens your lungs, it can also lower your risk of getting lung cancer. While factors like stress and exposure to toxins can outweigh the benefits of exercise, it’s not a bad idea to incorporate exercise in your life to lower the risk of getting the big C.