Exercise is not only great for keeping you in shape, but it also helps you have a better life in general. You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but have you really started exercising? If you are like me, you’ve dedicated unsuccessfully to many types of exercise and you ended up doing none. The truth is that many people need a lot of motivation to start exercising regularly. Luckily for all of the inactive people, there are plenty of reasons why they should start doing it as soon as possible. Scientists are now revealing that exercise is actually a medicine and has a lot of benefits.
“There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do,” says Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. “And if there was one, it would be extremely expensive.”
Here are some of the amazing things that happen to a person who exercises regularly, thanks to Time.
1. Exercise is great for your brain
It leads to less depression, better memory, and quicker learning. Studies claim that the best way to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is exercise.
Scientists don’t know exactly why exercise changes the structure and function of the brain, but they are trying to find out. Physical activity improves blood flow to the brain and helps in the growth of new blood vessels and brain cells thanks to the protein BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF helps in the growth of new neurons, repairs and protects brain cells from degeneration.
2. You probably get happier
Exercise makes people feel better in general. It also helps people dealing with depression. This is so because exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain, including serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, and dopamine. These better the mood, relieve the pain and the stress. “For years we focused almost exclusively on the physical benefits of exercise and really have ignored the psychological and emotional benefits of being regularly active,” says Cedric Bryant, the chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.
3. It might make you age slower
As a matter of fact, it can lengthen your lifespan to five years. A small study suggested that moderate exercise may slow down the aging of cells. As you get older, your cells divide and their telomeres—the protective caps on the end of chromosomes—get shorter. Researchers decided to take a muscle biopsy and blood samples to see how exercise affects telomeres. They did this to 10 healthy people before and after a 45-minute ride on a stationary bicycle. The results said that exercise increased the presence of a molecule that protects telomeres, therefore, a conclusion that exercise appears to slow aging was drawn.
4. It’ll make your skin look better
Aerobic exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and even help wounds heal faster. “That’s why when people have injuries, they should get moving as quickly as possible—not only to make sure the muscle doesn’t atrophy but to make sure there’s good blood flow to the skin,” says Anthony Hackney, an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. If you do it regularly, you’ll add more blood vessels and tiny capillaries to your skin, too.
The skin is also a release point for the heat that’s produced while exercising. The heat in the muscle transfers to the blood, which then shuttles it to the skin.
5. A lot of incredible things happen within a few minutes
“We’ve been interested in the question of, how low can you go?” says Martin Gibala, an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. He wanted to test the effectiveness of a 10-minute workout, compared to the typical 50-minute bout. His devised micro-workout consists of three exhausting 20-second intervals of all-out, hard-as-you-can exercise, followed by brief recoveries. He compared the two types of exercises in a three-month study to see which one was better. Surprisingly, both workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control, even though one workout was five times longer than the other. “If you’re willing and able to push hard, you can get away with surprisingly little exercise,” Gibala says.
6. It can help you recover from a major illness
Many types of exercise can be appropriate for people with different chronic conditions. These include Type 2 diabetes as well as heart failure. For decades, people with certain diseases were advised not to exercise, but now scientists are altering this opinion. A recent analysis of more than 300 clinical trials discovered that for people recovering from a stroke, exercise was very effective.
Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California, has prescribed exercise to his patients since the early 1990s. “It really worked amazingly, particularly in my very sickest patients,” he says. “If I could get them to do it on a regular basis—even just walking, anything that got their heart rate up a bit—I would see dramatic improvements in their chronic disease, not to mention all of these other things like depression, anxiety, mood and energy levels.”
7. Your fat cells will shrink
The body uses carbohydrates and fats as energy sources. After consistent aerobic exercise training, the body gets better at burning fat, which requires a lot of oxygen to convert it into energy. “One of the benefits of exercise training is that our cardiovascular system gets stronger and better at delivering oxygen, so we are able to metabolize more fat as an energy source,” Anthony Hackney says. As a result, the fat cells shrink and so does inflammation.
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