Making fitness stick: how regular exercise can improve your life
We’ve posted before about how to make exercise a lifestyle choice. We mentioned some of the benefits that regular exercise can have on your life, but we’re going to dig a little deeper into this article. Finding the motivation to work out can be tough, especially for freelancers who work from home and find the inertia of a home office overwhelming. A busy schedule, bad weather, fatigue, and other factors may make it difficult to make fitness stick; however, research shows that regular exercise can improve your life in many ways. Let’s take a look at some of those ways in greater detail.
Maintain healthy weight
Regular exercise is a great way to keep weight in check. Whether you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, exercise can help. To maintain weight, the number of calories you consume must equal the calories that you burn. When trying to lose weight, you should aim to create a calorie deficit, which can result in weight loss. A combination of diet and exercise is integral to achieving a calorie deficit. While the amount of exercise each person needs may vary based on a variety of factors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some recommendations on how to maintain or lose weight with exercise:
The CDC recommends building up to 150 minutes (roughly 2 and a half hours) of moderate aerobic activity along with 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. Ideally, you can work towards an equivalent mix of both types of aerobic activity each week. This is the general recommendation; however, it may be necessary to do more than the recommended amount to maintain weight.
The CDC recommends both a high amount of physical activity and a diet that reduces the number of calories you take in to lose weight.
For more guidance on what moderate and vigorous aerobic activity entails, visit the CDC website.
Lower risk of heart disease
Exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease by strengthening your heart and improving circulation. Improved circulation and increased blood flow increase the oxygen levels in your body, which, in turn, lowers your risk of heart diseases. Which heart diseases? Coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, and heart attack can all be kept at bay with regular exercise. It can also keep blood pressure and triglyceride levels low.
Exercise can lead to positive physiological changes and enable the heart's arteries to dilate more readily. It makes the sympathetic nervous system less reactive, leading to better heart rate and blood pressure. Again, duration and type of exercise matters. It appears that 30 minutes (whether all at once or broken into intervals) is the ideal amount to get the maximum benefit.
Improve mental health and mood
Exercise releases endorphins and other chemicals that can improve your mood, aid in relaxation, reduce stress, and lower your risk of depression. One study showed that walking for one hour or running for 15 minutes each day can reduce the risk of major depression by 26%.
That’s not all; exercise can help with anxiety, too. It can relieve tension, enhance mental states and physical energy, and promote well-being through the release of “feel-good” chemicals in the body. Mindful exercise, in particular, can aid in allaying worrying thoughts. The key is to be fully aware of the activity in which you’re engaging. If you’re running, pay attention to the feeling of your feet hitting the ground, or the air you’re breathing, or other physical sensations.
Keep bones strong
Your bones consist of living tissues, just like muscles. As such, your bones can become stronger through exercise. Those who regularly exercise may have greater peak bone mass, or the maximum bone density and strength. Typically, peak bone mass is achieved in the third decade of life, followed by bone loss that comes with age. Regular exercise can help prevent some of the bone loss.
Resistance training and weight-bearing exercises are especially beneficial to keep bones strong. Exercises that fall into these categories include lifting weights, walking, running, hiking, or climbing stairs.
These are just some of the numerous health benefits that come from regular exercise. Still have doubts? Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor to discuss how exercise may improve your life. A great direct primary care doctor can help you map out the best way to achieve your health and fitness goals based on your unique health history and needs.
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