With new evidence supporting that at least 2.5 hours per week of exercise is required to stave off avoidable diseases, improve mood and cognitive function and maintain a healthy weight, it’s surprising to find that 80% of us still don’t commit to 2.5 hours per week of exercise.
Exercise is no longer an instrument used to shed only kilos. What science is continuing to tell us through data being released each day, is the overwhelming benefits to be had through exercising, impacting our quality of life both physically and mentally.
Exercise improves oxygen flow to the brain, it helps the brain manage mood, anxiety, attention and guards the brain from stress. Research has found exercise increases our bodies ability to release hormones that assist in the growth of brain cells and also creates those fabulous chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive and optimistic feeling in our body, hence the term ‘runners high’.
An exciting recent discovery by scientists has shown that new neurons can be created in the brain throughout our lives and vigorous exercise, (running or HIIT) is so far the only trigger that causes this. An added bonus is that these neurons are produced in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory, meaning in theory, we should be able to exercise ourselves smart!
It was only recently thought that our brains produced a set amount of neurons for our lifetime and once these were used up, we wouldn’t be able to produce more. This new finding is ground-breaking!
For those of us who need some motivation to get moving, or those of us who have gone off track and need a little reminder as to why exercising is so important for us, below are 15 reasons you should incorporate exercise into your everyday life. Enjoy!
1. 50% Reduction in the risk of Dementia
Regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of cognitive decline. One study reported that there was a 50% reduction in the risk of dementia in older persons who maintained regular bouts of physical activity.
View the article “Sedentary lifestyle is dangerous to your health” here
2. Women Cut their Risk of Heart Attack in Half
People who are sedentary have the highest rate of heart attack. In the Nurses’ Health Study, women who were physically active 3 hours or more per week (half an hour daily) cut their risk of heart attack in half. View the article “Sedentary lifestyle is dangerous to your health” here
3. Heart Disease
Regular exercise can help improve your heart health. Recent studies have shown that interval training is often tolerated well in people with heart disease, and it can produce significant benefits. View the article “Exercise and chronic disease: Get the facts” here
4. Lowers the Risk of Obesity
Studies show that an hour of walking daily cut the risk of obesity by 24%.
5. Decrease in Cancer Mortality
Studies show a 40% decrease in cancer mortality in persons who were physically active compared to those who were inactive.
6. Exercise is the only Activity that Creates more Neurons in the Brain
Exercise yourself smart.
President of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology, Karen Postal says, ‘The only activity that is shown to trigger the birth of these new neurons is vigorous aerobic exercise. If you are exercising so that you sweat for 30-40 minutes, new brain cells are being born. People who exercise regularly are 50% less likely to develop dementia.
Now we know one reason why: when we exercise, new brain cells are born in the hippocampus- the brain’s gateway to new memories.’ Karen also goes on to say that exercise is the most effective way to improve memory and attention. You can view her findings here in Karen’s article ‘Think Better: Exercise’ here
7. Exercise Increases your Willpower
A meta-analysis published in 2013 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at several groups of people. Children, adolescents, and adults up to the age of 35. They found that short bouts of exercise had a significant affect across all age groups in areas of executive function, along with inhibition and interference control – which is better known as willpower. View the article- “39 Scientific Brain Benefits of Exercise” here
8. Exercise Increases the Production of Endorphins in your Brain
Exercise stimulates endorphin production. You’re probably familiar with the term “runner’s high,” which refers to the euphoric feeling one sometimes gets when exercising. Researchers have found that light-to-moderate weight training or cardiovascular exercise doesn’t produce endorphins, only heavy weights or training that incorporates sprinting or other anaerobic exertion does.
When your body crosses over from an aerobic state to an anaerobic state, it’s suddenly operating without enough oxygen to satisfy the muscles and cells screaming out for it. This is when the “runner’s high” occurs. View the article- “Is there a link between exercise and happiness?” here.
9. Exercise Helps Fight Depression
A study by Dr. Andrea Dunn found that patients who did the equivalent of 35 minutes’ walking, six days per week, experienced a reduction in their level of depression by 47 percent. This study, conducted at the Cooper Research Institute in Dallas, Texas, shows that as little as three hours of regular exercise a week reduces the symptoms of mild to moderate depression as effectively as Prozac and other antidepressants. View the article- “3 ways to beat depression through exercise” here
10. Exercise Improves your Self Confidence
Just get going.
According to a study in the Journal of Health Psychology, people with a low sense of self-confidence gained greater confidence not by how hard they exercised, how fast they ran, or how much they benched, but rather by whether they exercised at all. It was the act of exercising that increased self-confidence, not how well they performed in the process.
11. Exercise Prevents DNA Damage
Because DNA damage is the cause of cancer, exercise, then, can prevent cancer. According to a study at the Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden (2013), exercise can have neurobiological benefits at the DNA level. Researchers studied men who lived sedentary lifestyles. They then gave them physical activities to complete for the next 6 months.
The researchers found a significant number of DNA methylation changes in the study subjects and that genes related to diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease presented beneficial methyl group alterations after the 6-month period. View the article, “17 scientifically proven superhuman benefits of exercise” here
Running is one of the easiest and most affordable ways of getting the recommended 2.5 hours per week of physical exercise. The reason why running is so effective, is because of the varied intensity (heart rate zones) you can experience. Having a good variety of high, medium and low intensity workouts, based on what science is showing us now, points to giving us the highest level of benefit for our overall physical and mental health.
You don’t need to run at an extremely fast pace, you just need to start. As long as you’re being active you’re on your way to experiencing a healthy, enjoyable and high quality life.