Exercise is easily the most underrated preventive medicine in our lives. We constantly seek expensive drugs and treatment for health problems, but we never even think of exercise as a possible solution. Not surprisingly, as a population, we are quite unhealthy and overweight. Partially thanks to the overabundance of tasty food and mostly due to the lack of physical activity.
So what do we do? We live unhealthy and inactive lives that lead to health and weight problems. Then we seek medical help to offset these problems to some degree during which time we start living a bit better. Then, as our health improves, we get back to our old ways and get worse again. And this roller-coaster continues for decades. However, there is one simple way to drastically improve your health, feel more energetic and positively impact your daily life. That way is exercise.
Exercise provides numerous health benefits for us:
It drastically improves our energy levels and mood
Research has shown that exercise makes us happy and helps ward off depression, anxiety, and stress. It does so by making changes in the part of the brain that regulates anxiety and stress. Exercise has also been shown to increase the brain’s sensitivity to the hormones norepinephrine and serotonin which are well known as the “happy hormones”. Not only that, but acutely after exercise, your body is flooded with endorphins that increase your mood and energy levels for hours. There doesn’t appear to be a minimum threshold of exercise intensity for these benefits to manifest themselves. Even a little bit of any sort of exercise done regularly can make a huge difference.
It aids in fat loss and muscle growth
Research suggests that inactivity is a major factor in fat storage and obesity. Mainly, the lack of physical activity negatively impacts your insulin sensitivity (how sensitive your body is to the hormone) and the effects of leptin on your metabolic rate and appetite.
First, exercise improves your insulin sensitivity which means that your body needs to produce less of it to lower blood glucose levels. Chronically elevated levels of insulin often lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Second is exercise’s effect on leptin. This hormone is a key player in the regulation of your metabolic rate and your appetite. Ideally, your body should produce just enough of this hormone and your brain should be sensitive to it. This would lead to sustained weight loss and normal appetite. Aside from that, exercise also helps your body expend energy which makes it easier for you to achieve a caloric deficit that is needed for weight loss. As you lose weight, you will notice that your confidence, energy levels, and productivity are going to improve drastically.
Furthermore, exercise also helps grow and strengthen your muscles, as well as bones. Physical activities such as lifting weights (in various forms and setting) or doing interval running combined with an adequate protein intake can stimulate muscle growth. Even if you are not interested in building a ton of muscle or strength, understand the benefits:
- Muscle mass is a metabolically costly tissue which means that your body needs extra calories to sustain it. In practical terms, this means that you can eat more food without gaining fat.
- Stronger bones and more resilient joints decrease your chances of fractures, other types of injuries and the development of osteoporosis later in life.
- Being stronger allows you to tackle everyday activities with more ease. Groceries don’t feel as heavy, moving furniture is a fun little challenge and you feel more energetic throughout the day.
Aside from that, as people age, they tend to lose quite a bit of muscle mass and bone density. This happens due to a variety of factors such as insufficient protein intake, calcium deficiency and quite notably — lack of physical exercise. Maintaining the habit of exercise will ensure that you lose less muscle mass as you age which allows you to stay free of disabilities, injuries, and illnesses well into your golden years.