5 Non-physical Benefits of Exercise
We all know benefits of exercise for the physical body: It increases stamina and energy, builds and tones muscles, stimulates weight loss, and can encourage flexibility. But the benefits of the workout, don’t end with the physical body. Continuing research shows that when we engage in physical activity, our bodies benefit in multiple ways that are beyond physical results.
“‘There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do…. And if there was one, it would be extremely expensive.’ Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana.”
Here are five benefits to exercising that extend beyond the physical body.
Increases Brain Function
Exercise increases the amount of the protein brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Scientists say that BDNF alters the structure and function of the brain by increasing blood flow, creating new blood vessels and brain cells. These changes help to reduce depression and encourages focus, memory, and learning.
Improves Mood and Lowers Stress
Research shows that when you exercise the biochemicals serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, and dopamine are released in the brain. The release of these chemicals improves mood, pain tolerance, and stress reduction. They are essential to good mental and emotional health.
“‘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….’ Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.”
Enhances the Skin
When you exercise, blood flows to the skin bringing oxygen and nutrients. The oxygen and nutrients encourage skin health including helping wounds faster. Exercise physiologist from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Anthony Hackney, suggests people exercise as soon as possible after an injury to make sure there is ample blood flow to the skin.
Improves Recovery from Major Illness
Up to a few decades ago, people with chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes were not encouraged to exercise. Doctors now know that exercise is an integral part of stabilizing chronic conditions and healing.
Kaiser Permanente family physician, Dr. Robert Sallis says he sees dramatic improvements in patients with chronic conditions when they regularly exercise. Data analysis of more than 300 clinical trials showed that exercise was instrumental to stroke patient’s recovery.
A small study indicated that moderately intense exercise might slow cell aging. Researchers wanted to see if physical training affected telomeres. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of chromosomes that shorten as we age.
After exercising for forty-five minutes, researchers retested muscle biopsies and blood samples from the study’s participants. A molecule known to protect telomeres increased in numbers which slowed the telomeres shortening process. Other studies also show that exercise may increase life expectancy up to five years.
“‘Exercise and physical activity is not something that you just do extra in your life to get extra healthy. Rather, it’s something that’s absolutely necessary for normal function….’ John Thyfault, PhD, associate professor at Kansas University Medical Center.”
Shorter Intense Workouts are as Beneficial as Longer Ones
The reason many of us don’t exercise is due to the time commitment. Our lives are busy and trying to fit workouts into it seems a formidable task. Well, there is good news. Research shows that you can exercise for short periods and still receive the benefits. Martin Gibala, an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario, found in a study that high interval impact training (HIIT) types of exercise were just as effective as longer workouts.
Participants in Gibala’s study exercised for a total of ten minutes. However, there were high-intensity 20-second workout intervals followed by brief recovery periods. After three months, he found that heart function and blood-sugar control were the same as those who exercised for more extended periods.
Research shows that your health is at stake when you don’t work out. Conversely, when you do engage in physical activity, the benefits encompass the entire body, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Oaklander, Mandy and Jones, Heather, 7 Surprising Benefits of Exercise, September 1, 2016. Web.
Goodman, Brenda, MA. The Benefits of Exercise Go Way Beyond the Muscles. Web.