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Exercise

Exercise: The Natural Drug

Incorporating exercise into your every-day life may come as a challenge for some, but the long-term and short-term benefits cannot be replaced by any other medicine or drug.

Exercise is about more than just looking good! When you consistently exercise, your body will reap the mental and emotional benefits in addition to the physical benefits too. All it takes is making a conscious effort to alter your daily habits or squeeze in an extra 20 minutes into your schedule.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes (or two and a half hours) of moderate physical activity each week — that includes brisk walking, heavy cleaning, light bicycling, lawn mowing and more. Below are just some of the benefits of regular exercise:

Mental

  • Promotes brain function and memory: Regular exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which improves memory and mental function. It also enhances your body’s production of hormones that promote brain cell growth.
  • Helps with sleep quality: Regular physical activity is proven to help you sleep sounder, deeper and longer.

Emotional

  • Improves mood: Exercise increases the level of endorphins in your body, which contribute to a positive mood. It has also been shown to relieve feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Benefits self-esteem: You may feel better about your physical appearance when you exercise regularly, which can lead to increased self-confidence.

Physical

  • Reduces risk of chronic conditions: By regularly exercising, you can help regulate the levels of fat in your blood. Significant increases in this fat, even over short periods of time, can have serious consequences, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. A steady schedule of physical activity can help reduce your risk of developing many chronic diseases.
  • Assists with weight loss: Inactivity is a huge contributor to weight gain. The longer you are sedentary, the lower your metabolic rate. Regular exercise increases your metabolic rate, which aids in burning calories. Along with a balanced diet, aerobic exercise (plus occasional weight training) assists with losing weight and keeping that weight off.

Any amount of physical activity is better than none at all — it’s all about consistency. No matter your age, gender or physical ability, everyone benefits from regular exercise. A combination of strength training such as weight lifting combined with aerobic exercises like dancing or rowing spread across multiple days in the week can seriously benefit your overall health. Talk to your doctor if you are considering implementing a new workout routine and see what types of exercise are best for your health.

 

This article first appeared in the March 2020 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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