Exercise is good for you, everybody knows that. But did you know exercise can benefit almost every area of your life? Perhaps you’re aware of the physical benefits, but what else can you gain from a regular workout? That’s what we’re going to answer here, by illustrating the 15 main ways exercise positively impacts your life and health.
Things like weight loss and muscle gain are well known motivations for committing to cardio and strength training workouts. But did you know that exercising can also reduce certain health risks, boost your energy levels and leave you with healthier skin? It’s not just your physical health that can reap the rewards either. Exercising has a huge effect on your mental health, well-being and overall quality of life. Knowing these benefits will maintain motivation levels and show you new ways you can use exercise to improve your life.
So what are the 15 benefits we’ve settled on? Check out our illustration below, showing the three main areas we think they fall in to.
Feel free to download a copy for yourself and share it wherever you like. Now that you’ve seen them laid out in front of you, let’s take a deeper look at each of the ways you’ll be rewarded for staying active.
- Physical Benefits
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
- Stronger Bones & Muscles
- Reduced Health Risks
- Boost Energy Levels
- Relieve Chronic Pain
- Healthier Skin
- Mental Benefits
- Stress Relief
- Ease Depression & Anxiety
- Increase Brain Function
- Addiction Recovery
- Lifetime Longevity
- Sleep Better
- Improved Sexual Health
- Reduce Risk of Falls
- In Summary
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
This is a common motivation for doing exercise and is one of the more obvious benefits. In simple terms, maintaining a healthy weight comes down to the number of calories you eat each day compared to the number of calories you burn. Doing exercise burns calories and can also increase your metabolism. This means that there are less ‘excess’ calories at the end of the day, minimizing weight gain. Of course, this is an oversimplification, there are many more factors that will affect your weight. But it’s fair to say, these two things play a big part. Activities like running, cycling and high intensity interval training are great for burning calories at a high rate. Always remember, however, that exercise alone is not enough to stay healthy. A balanced diet is equally important, so make sure you pay just as much attention to what you eat when starting a workout plan.
2. Stronger Bones & Muscles
Muscle and bone are both living tissue that can grow and gain in strength from exercise. Activities like rowing and weightlifting actually break down your muscles during a workout. This then leads to them growing back even stronger, after a period of rest. If you’re looking to bulk up Arnold-style, then strength training is certainly the best bet. A lesser known benefit of weightlifting is greater peak bone mass, which is important for staying active as you get older. If lifting heavy weights isn’t your thing, try weight-bearing activities, also great for strengthening bones. These are things like running, hiking, football and tennis.
3. Reduced Health Risks
It’s been proven that regular exercise can reduce the risk of around two dozen physical and mental health conditions. This is an incredible benefit which shouldn’t be ignored, and is a real motivation booster if you’re struggling to get started. If we were told there was a drug we could take to impact these things, we’d be amazed, and rightly so. Amongst the health conditions with a reduced risk are heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. If you’re young and healthy, these things may not be at the forefront of your mind, but they can’t be ignored. Exercising regularly will help keep health issues at bay, and ensure your health remains problem-free for as long as possible.
4. Boost Energy Levels
When you’re feeling tired, the last thing you want to do is lace-up your trainers and start a sweaty workout. Whilst it may sound contradictory, doing regular exercise can do wonders for your energy levels. Research has shown that exercising can increase your energy and reduce fatigue. I often feel exhausted after a home gym workout, but it’s a ‘nice’ kind of tired (some of you may disagree!) and ends up with me feeling more energetic later in the day. So next time you’re feeling lethargic, put down the coffee and energy drinks, and get yourself moving.
5. Relieve Chronic Pain
Having chronic pain is not a pleasant experience, and is something that I’ve been lucky enough not to experience myself. However, if this is something you struggle with, exercise can go a long way to easing your pain. Studies have shown that exercise can help to increase your pain threshold, something which can drop with chronic issues. Back pain is another area where certain exercises, such as stretching and flexibility, can improve things. If you’re looking to get started, make sure you do your research and consult a medical professional if possible.
6. Healthier Skin
This is probably the last thing you thought exercise would help with, but exercise is the anti-aging skin remedy you’ve been searching for. When you exercise, you have an increased heart rate, which leads to more blood being pumped around the body. This increase in circulation leads to additional nutrients reaching your skin, resulting in the growth of new skin cells. Not only this, exercise can have an anti-inflammatory effect on your skin. This leaves it with less irritation, particularly with conditions such as eczema. All in all, regular workouts can help your skin to feel younger, smoother and clearer.
7. Stress Relief
The hard work of exercise isn’t something we always enjoy. When you’re stressed, you may not be overly excited at the idea of heading to the gym. But research has shown that aerobic exercise can reduce levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the body. These are the body’s ‘stress hormones’ which can be unpleasant when at high levels. Physical activity also releases chemicals from the brain known as endorphins, which are “the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators”. These are the reason you get that great post-workout feeling of happiness, relaxation and well-being.
8. Ease Depression & Anxiety
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and exercise is great for both. Exercise is now more commonly being used as part of treatment for certain mental health conditions, and for good reason. Exercise has been shown to relieve many of the symptoms of depression and anxiety, providing an active way you can aid your mental health. Working out can be a positive distraction, promote confidence and provide social interaction. On top of this, it can boost energy levels and release positive hormones. Many of these can be seen as standalone benefits, but also contribute a huge amount to mental well-being. If you, or somebody you know, are struggling with any issues seek professional advice. Charities such as Mind can also provide a lot of valuable information and resources.
9. Increase Brain Function
That’s right, exercising can make you smarter (sort of). As we’ve already covered, exercising releases hormones in the brain and increases blood circulation. This increased blood flow results in higher levels of oxygen in the brain. Both of these things are a stimulant for the growth of new brain cells, which is vital if you want to stay sharp. Scientific research also shows that the effects of exercise make it easier for your brain to grow new connections between cells.
10. Addiction Recovery
Recovering from addiction sounds like an incredibly tough process, where you need all the help you can get. Exercise is often used as part of treatment and is considered to be a valuable part of the recovery process. Working out provides a structure to the day, and can be a welcome distraction. It also leads to an increase in positive feelings, amongst other mental benefits. These things can all be a great support whilst recovering from addiction, whether that be from something more serious or not.
11. Lifetime Longevity
When you’re young, fit and healthy, lifetime longevity isn’t usually at the forefront of your mind. It’s easy to feel invincible and like you’re going to live forever. As you age, however, exercise is a vital component of helping you have a longer life. Not only does it increase lifetime longevity, it also improves the quality of life you have. This means you can enjoy those extra years as fully as possible. How does exercise do this? Well, it’s really a combination of all the other benefits we’ve already covered. Stronger bones & muscles, reduced health risks, less stress, better mental health, lower blood pressure, increased mobility… the list goes on! It’s easy to see how exercising can help you live a longer, healthier life.
12. Sleep Better
There is evidence to show that moderate aerobic exercise can help to increase the amount of deep sleep you get. This is the part of sleep that helps your body and brain to recover, allowing you to feel fresher and more focused. It’s also known that exercise can help you fall asleep more quickly, although it’s not fully understood why exercise has either of these effects. Even so, the evidence is there, so if you’re somebody who struggles with sleep, exercise may be the answer.
Whether you feel this benefit will depend largely on how you exercise. Getting active can be a great way to meet new people and socialise with friends. Team sports, such as football and basketball, are ideal for meeting lots of new people, and are amongst my personal favorites. If you’re in to running, organizations such as parkrun allow you to meet people whilst also getting fit. Whatever your preference for working out, it’s likely there’s an option out there. Whether you’re in to tennis, swimming, walking, cycling or yoga, there are hundreds of classes and groups that you can find from a quick search online. On top of getting physically and mentally fit, you will also cultivate a greater sense of well-being as you make friends, or socialise with existing ones.
14. Improved Sexual Health
This may be a benefit many people don’t expect from exercise, but working out can go a long way to improving your sexual health. Research suggests that regular exercise can increase desire, arousal and satisfaction in both men and women. The additional confidence that exercise can give you certainly won’t harm things either. Studies in this area are still fairly new, but evidence is growing, and it all points to exercise improving things in the bedroom.
15. Reduce Risk of Falls
Staying firmly balanced on your feet is something we often take for granted. However, as you get older, or if you encounter certain health issues, this is something that can be vital for quality of life. Building stronger muscles, bones and joints will go a long way to ensuring you stay balanced, reducing the risk of falls. For older age groups, avoiding these kinds of accidents is important for staying fit and mobile. This increased mobility can also allow you to carry out everyday activities, such as walking to the shops or playing with grandkids.
Exercising is amazing, there’s no doubt. The physical benefits lead to feeling fitter, being stronger, having more energy and taking less trips to the doctor’s. Mental health is also increasingly important in today’s society, which exercise goes a long way to treating. Anxiety, stress, depression and addiction are all things that can benefit from a regular exercise routine. The benefits don’t stop there, however, as you’ll also see an increase in a feeling of well-being. Exercise can help you to live a longer life, meet new people, sleep better, stay more mobile and even have better sex. Don’t forget, you can check out our illustration of the 15 benefits of exercise here. All in all, it’s fair to say that doing regular exercise pays off handsomely, leading to a healthier and happier life.