1. Looking good. That’s a given… you know it’s true. Everything else is really important, but looking good is number one!
Ten Reasons for Regular Exercise2. Lean muscle mass burns fat for energy. Physiologically speaking, this is the bottom line. Excess fat creates all kinds of problems, increasing the potential for diabetes, heart disease, various kinds of arthritis, and even cancer.
Recent medical research has shown that fat cells are tiny metabolic factories. They don’t just sit there on your belly or thighs, they’re busy churning out a large variety of proteins that can lead to illness and disease.
So, it’s a very good idea to reduce your level of body fat to the amount that’s healthy for you. This amount can be estimated, not calculated exactly, but your body knows what to do once it’s provided with the right raw material.
The lean muscle mass you build during regular, consistent exercise is a natural fat-fighter. Lean muscle mass is metabolically active and requires a lot of energy – this energy comes from fat cells. When you’re fit, your body even burns fat (consumes calories) when you’re watching TV or sleeping.
3. Flexibility. This benefit could also be named “use it or lose it”. Our bodies were designed for vigorous physical work – hunting and gathering. In the 21st century, there aren’t a lot of four-legged predators around to keep us on our toes. Most of us have jobs that are sedentary. We need to keep the parts moving.
Exercise revitalizes muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints by bringing lots of blood to these tissues. And, most forms of exercise are full range-of-motion activities, renewing muscle and joint flexibility during each exercise session.
4. Injury prevention. As I just mentioned, most exercises train your muscles and joints throughout their full range of motion. These muscles and joints are learning to adjust dynamically to mechanical loads, often at the extremes of motion. This highly beneficial training has many real-world applications outside the four walls of your gym.
Let’s say you’re out for a walk in New York City or San Francisco, admiring the scenery. Suddenly you step on an uneven section of pavement or your shoe gets caught momentarily in a metal grating, and your ankle turns over. Maybe your ankle turns over really far. For some people, the result might be a bad ankle sprain. But the ankles of fit exercisers have been well-trained. Their ankles can tolerate extremes of position without damage being done to joint capsules, ligaments, or tendons. You stumble, shake it off, and walk away. Exercise time has been very well spent!
From another point of view, I know a lot of people who used to have back pain but don’t anymore because they started running or swimming. Periodic back injuries resolved with whole-body exercise. That’s pretty dramatic. Now running isn’t for everybody, but if you are able to run there are many unexpected benefits.
5. Weight management. For any weight-management food plan to be effective in the long-term, regular exercise needs to be part of the new lifestyle. Any popular diet can look like its working in the short-term. First, these diets are a real shock to the system, and most of them result in significant losses of water weight in the early going.
But most of the time, the weight lost in the first few weeks creeps back over the next few months. Possibly the person winds up weighing even more than they did when they started the fad diet.
What’s missing? First of all, what’s missing is a food plan that’s based on sound nutritional principles. Also, in the context of our Top 10 Reasons to Exercise Regularly, what’s missing is the exercise component. To effectively lose weight, a healthy food plan needs to be combined with a regular exercise plan.
In order to lose weight naturally, your body needs to be burning more calories than you’re taking in. Regular exercise raises what’s called your basal metabolic rate. This is the amount of energy your body uses when it’s resting. By building metabolically active lean muscle mass, regular exercise increases your body’s overall demand for energy.
You provide less fuel by eating less, and your new-and-improved fit metabolism will do the rest by burning off excess fat!
6. Have more fun with your kids. Your kids, your grand-kids, your friends’ kids, big kids (like us). Basically, have more fun.
It’s tough when you walk in the door of your brother’s or sister’s house and your 5-year-old niece or nephew runs toward you with outstretched arms, ready to giggle, laugh, and scream with joy. The kid is anticipating you’re going to swoop her off the floor and swing her high over your head, up, down, and around.
Big-time fun. But, your back is stiff and tight, you’ve got a shoulder injury, or something else is not quite right. Bummer. The best you can do is kneel down and hug the kid, giving them a warm smile and maybe tousle their hair a bit. They know you love them, but the fun part is not quite the same.
Regular exercise gives you the flexibility, strength, and overall fitness to play freely, with abandon, the way children like to play.
7. Power up your brain. Recent medical research is showing that regular exercise makes people smarter. Not in the sense of increasing your IQ points, but rather by making more of your brain available for use.
brain powerOne explanation makes use of the fact that regular exercise improves circulation throughout your body. More blood flowing means more energy-providing glucose is reaching the cells that need it most. And, as your brain is your body’s biggest consumer of glucose, more available glucose means more and better brain activity. You just got smarter!
8. Creativity boost. It’s well-known that regular exercise enhances creativity. It’s a Zen thing. Your conscious mind is focused on the repetitive actions of your exercise, leaving the creative part of your brain (sometimes called the subconscious) free to do its job.
A few years ago I was finishing work on the third act of a screenplay. This terrific project had gone pretty smoothly, and yet I was a little stuck on how the different plot lines would come together at the end. I wanted the climax to be both surprising and thrilling, and I wasn’t sure how to get there.
Finally, I remembered that many of my good ideas have popped into my head while I was running. I put on my New Balance 990s and headed off to Central Park, vowing to clear my mind and let go of everything I had been thinking about.
Toward the end of my 4-mile run, just jogging around the reservoir at the north end of the park, my gaze landed on the unusual superstructure of a Fifth Avenue high-rise. Suddenly, the entire third act climax unfolded in my imagination, stimulated by the shape of the building.
I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. Exercise boosts creativity, allowing you to tap into a vast storehouse of new ideas!
9. More restful sleep. As a society, Americans do not sleep well. In 2005 the number one sleeping aid, Ambien, earned $1.7 billion in annual sales. At the time, Lunesta (number two) earned more than $300 million in its first year on the market.
There are many complex causes for sleeplessness and restless sleep, but regular exercise often provides a simple, cost-free cure. Restful sleep is yet another unexpected and welcome benefit from regular exercise.
As a case study of one, when I’m exercising regularly (that is to say, most of the time) I fall asleep right away. I turn out the lights and that’s it. I’m asleep. If I’ve gone for a week without any exercise (truth in advertising – this does happen), I notice I start to have difficulty falling asleep. And, I start to toss-and-turn. There’s a direct correlation. As soon as I’m exercising again, I start falling asleep easily.
The explanation is straightforward – you’re doing vigorous physical work and your body needs to recover. Sleep allows your body to repair and rebuild, getting stronger in the process. Regardless of one’s stresses and worries, vigorous exercise makes a physical demand on your body that will put you right to sleep.
10. Increased sense of well-being from enhanced endorphin production. Endorphins are a natural opiate, produced in your brain in response to vigorous physical activity. The well-known “runner’s high” has been linked to the endorphin response.
Endorphins cause you to feel good. You feel “on top of the world” – problems lose their sense of oppression, you begin to see solutions more clearly and easily, and new ideas start to flow. This is all very good news.
The post-exercise endorphin rush literally puts a smile on your face. You experience a renewed sense of “being alive” and you can’t wait to get into action and put your ideas to work.
Thanks to endorphins, regular exercise provides a natural “attitude adjustment” that doesn’t require ingesting artificial substances. This good feeling can last all day long. The immediate and long-term results are totally empowering!