Exercise is good for you. That’s no surprise at all right?
But… that doesn’t always help to make it super appealing! I mean, I can’t be the only one guilty of just not wanting to work it sometimes.
But what if there were a better way? What if we could make exercise more fun? Turn our workouts into something we really look forward to?
Turns out that’s totally doable! And, trust me, it’s really worth it to find the right balance for you. Because exercise isn’t just good for you. It’s AMAZING for you.
Let’s talk about 8 awesome benefits of exercise (#2 blew my mind) and how you can make sure this form of self-care isn’t a chore. Let’s dive in:
The 8 Awesome Health Benefits of Exercise
1. Exercise Supports Muscle and Bone Health
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty interested in keeping my muscles and bones happy. They’re kind of a big deal! And one important way to support them is by moving. Move it or lose it, right?
I’m sure it’s a no brainer that one of the main benefits of exercise is that it helps maintain and even grow muscles. Combine that with proper nutrition and you’re winning! But what you might not know is that exercise helps to release some nifty hormones that help your muscles better absorb amino acids (the building blocks of protein yo!) (source 1, source 2)
Not only is this important for muscle growth, it also prevents them from breaking down! And you definitely can’t get super swol if you’re muscles are deteriorating.
On top of that goodness, exercising on the regular helps to build and maintain your bone density. And when you make that a priority you help to prevent issues like osteoporosis. (source)
If you do have osteoporosis, choosing the right kind of exercise is still important.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends both weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises for bone density maintenance. Your weight-bearing exercises can be either high or low impact, whatever you prefer.
However, if you’re at risk of fracture it’s best to avoid high impact, weight-bearing exercises and talk to your doctor about the right exercise options for you.
2. Exercise Boosts Your Mood
There’s a reason why the term “runner’s high” exists friends! Exercise can help to make you feel pretty damn good. And if you work it on the regular the effects can be super awesome.
Regular exercise actually makes some interesting changes to the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. And it’s been shown to positively affect your mood and reduce stress (source). One of the ways it does this goodness is by boosting the production of feel good endorphins, which not only make us feel more positive but also reduce pain perception! Uhm, how cool is that?! (source)
And if that wasn’t already amazing enough, it also ups your brain’s sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine, two hormones that help to relieve depression! Which I think is pretty mind blowing! Don’t you agree? (source)
Even if you suffer from depression or anxiety, exercise can be a huge help!
Take a look at this awesome study, which examined the effects of exercise on anxiety. When people exercised regularly they saw an improvement in their anxiety symptoms, which is truly a wonderful gift.
But one of the best benefits of exercise here was that it also allowed them to be more aware of their mental state and distracted them from their fears. Take that anxiety!
And when we peek in at the benefits of exercise for depression we see some promising results too! This study showed a significant improvement in mood following regular exercise. Booyah!
Even better, it doesn’t matter what form of exercise you choose!
This is the best part, in my opinion! When it comes to developing a regular exercise routine it works best if you find something you actually love. Something that not only gets your body moving, but is fun and enjoyable. That’s the type of routine you’re going to actually stick to. And since we’re all different, we’re all going to like different forms of exercise.
But fear not! Because the studies are showing that those mood boosting benefits are yours for the taking, no matter what form you choose. Intensity doesn’t matter! You’re still going to feel awesome. (source 1, source 2)
3. Exercise Helps Keep That Beautiful Heart Healthy
We all know that heart health is pretty flipping important! I mean, it does play a pretty big role in keeping us alive after all. And healthy, regular exercise helps keep that ticker happy.
I’m sure you’ve felt your heart rate increase when you’re doing an aerobic exercise. Whether you’re running, speed walking, jumping rope or doing any cardio, you’re exercising that beautiful heart too! You’re moving your arms and your legs and using all of your large muscles. Plus, you start to breathe deeper and your heart pumps faster.
Our bodies do this to maximize the oxygen in our blood, which in turn delivers more oxygen to our muscles. This even helps our cardiovascular system get rid of waste like carbon dioxide and lactic acid (source). Lactic acid can trigger muscle cramps, so we definitely don’t want to let that stuff build up.
How does this help your heart?
Just like any other muscle, this speed boost gives your heart a great workout. And, in the end, you end up with a stronger blood pumper.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, the benefits of exercise that speeds up that gorgeous heart of yours is that they help to give you a stronger, slower regular heart rate. Because stronger hearts don’t need to beat as fast. They pump more efficiently and you end up with better blood flow. Sweet!
But the heart healthy goodness doesn’t stop there.
Any regular cardio also helps to boost good cholesterol, which may lead to less plaque build up in our fantastical arteries! Score! As if that weren’t superb enough, this might also help to lower our blood pressure and control our blood sugar (source 1, source 2). That’s one happy cardiovascular system!
A Note For My Fellow Graves Disease Warriors (Or Anyone With an Illness that Affects Your Heart)
While the regular benefits of exercise include boosting your heart health, that’s not necessarily the case for everyone. If your heart is affected by an illness (like Graves Disease) it’s really important that you talk to your doctor or health care provider before you start a workout plan.
Our goal is to keep our hearts healthy and happy, not put extra stress on an already stressed out organ. It’s best to exercise (pun intended ^^) caution.
4. Exercise Supports Your Brain Health and Boosts Your Memory
All that talk of blood flow and heart health is wonderful! But did you know that you’re also increasing the blood flow and oxygen to your brain while you work out? So cool! And, on top of that, you’re boosting hormone production that positively effects the growth of those gorgeous brain cells. Smarty pants! (source)
Remember how I mentioned earlier that exercise changes your brain? Another awesome change caused by regular exercise is a larger hippocampus. This bad boy is important for memory and learning. Which is especially useful for older folks, supporting your mental function well into your golden years! (source 1, source 2, source 3)
And I can’t forget to mention that getting your fitness on may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s. That’s pretty exciting news! (source)
Who knew that exercising on the regular helped to build a big, sexy brain?
5. Exercise Gives You Energy
You read that right! Using your energy to tap into those benefits of exercise actually boosts your energy in return! That’s practically magical, eh?
Did you know that around 20% of people worldwide report that they persistently feel fatigue? That’s a lot of people! And I have no doubts that there are more (since I imagine some of us were too tired to figure out how to report it).
But this study found that after six weeks of low and moderate exercise all participants (who initially felt fatigued AF) felt like they had more energy.
Even if you aren’t fatigued, you can still get an energy boost! Regular exercise has shown time and time again that it can increase energy levels in both healthy individuals and people with medical conditions (great news for my fellow chronic illness warriors!) Even if you have Chronic Fatigue syndrome, exercise can be a huge help! (source 1, source 2, source 3)
6. Exercise Improves Your Sleep
There are few things as gloriously wonderful as a good night sleep! And exercise is here to help make that happen.
Just 150 minutes of exercise per week can improve your sleep quality by up to 65%. It can even help people with insomnia sleep better and feel more energized throughout the day! Isn’t that fantastic? (source 1, source 2)
On top of that, the mood boosting and relaxing effects of regular exercise help you sleep easier too! Which is so exciting, because I’m all about catching those z’s. Any other professional sleepers in the house? (source)
7. Exercise May Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Illness
We already know that we’re protecting our heart when we work it, but the benefits of exercise extend way further than that!
A sedentary lifestyle can unfortunately be a primary cause of chronic disease (source). Which, in my opinion, is enough to make you want to move it, move it!
But regular exercise also helps to lower your blood pressure, reduce blood fat levels, decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes and improve insulin sensitivity… all in all it lowers your risk of developing certain diseases and may even increase your life span! (source 1, source 2, source 3)
And exercise even helps to lower visceral fat stores, which is the fatty tissue usually stored in the abdominal cavity and around a lot of important organs (source). Higher levels of this fat increases our risk of illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s and colorectal cancer. It’s definitely in our best interest to give visceral fat the boot! (source)
8. Exercise Can Help Manage Your Weight
I saved this bad boy for last for a reason – your body is beautiful as it is! I don’t want you to start an exercise plan with the sole purpose being weight loss.
When you eat well and exercise your body will find it’s way to it’s own healthy weight. Which is absolutely different for every person. And fluctuates, both throughout the day and throughout our lives.
The benefits of exercise can definitely include weight management. First by increasing your metabolic rate, which burns more calories and can lead to weight loss (source). But it can also cause fat loss and muscle mass gain (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4). And since muscle is more compact and dense than fat you may lose inches but gain weight.
So while it is definitely true that regular exercise can effect your weight, I still vote that we throw that scale out the window. You are not defined by a number on a scale. Just take good care of you and your body will do the rest. <3
Try to think of your exercise routine as a form of self love. A way to connect with your incredible body; to move and appreciate it. When we do this, everything changes. And then the idea of exercising becomes a lot more exciting and desirable.
How To Make Exercise a Fun Part of Your Routine
You definitely can’t tap into the benefits of exercise if you don’t do it on the regular! Does that mean that you need to do it every single day without exception? Not necessarily (although you definitely should move around a little everyday).
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, we should be getting (at the bare minimum) 150 minutes of moderate exercise and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week (source).
Maybe that sounds like a lot, but think about it this way: if you go for a 30 minute walk every day that’s 210 minutes a week. Bam! Moderate exercise needs met and exceeded. Which means that even if you miss a day or two you’re still rocking it! Not so bad, eh?
Not so sure about the power of a short walk? Here’s a free download all about how this quick and easy activity can help solve your exercise needs:
The most important thing is that you find something that you like! If you hate it you won’t stick to it. A good exercise routine is something you enjoy and look forward to.
Need a little exercise inspiration? Here are 6 ideas to help get you going!
(It’s me biking in one of my favourite places in the world <3)
These are a few easy ways you can squeeze in a fun workout no matter how hectic your schedule is:
1. Try Squats with Free Weights
This is a great way to maximize your time! Strength training workouts can really pack a punch, helping you burn calories even after the workout is over. A personal favourite is to use free weights while doing a squat exercise.
Squats can activate over 200 muscles when done properly. They engage your largest muscles and also include stabilizer muscles to help with your balance. Everything needs to be working harmony in order to create one beautiful, fluid movement.
And it even spans across three major joints – your hips, knees and ankles. It’s very important that you learn how to do a squat properly so that you don’t cause any damage.
My favourite personal trainer, Maryann of Mani Fitness made us a helpful video to show us how to do squats properly and protect our joints:
2. Hop on YouTube
Not all of us can afford a gym membership (this lady included). But the good news is that YouTube has a ton of fitness experts sharing awesome workouts that are quick, fun and effective! Did I mention that they’re usually free?
There are tons of options and so many different types of exercise to choose from! Whether you want to lift weights, do yoga, dance or anything in between, there is definitely something for you on YouTube.
I personally adore The Fitness Marshall. Great music, fun dancing and awesome cardio! Even if you only have a few minutes, you can seriously get that heart pumping (and I promise you’ll be smiling!)
Do you have a favourite YouTube workout or fitness expert? Let us know in the comments!
3. Check Out Pinterest or Instagram Workouts
Just like on YouTube, there are so many awesome fitness experts on Instagram and Pinterest. You can even get involved in challenges and develop a sense of comradery and community. Which makes it even more fun!
Look for quick workouts, step by step plans or challenges and choose something that feels right for you. I personally love Roxanne Yoga on Instagram for step by step yoga lessons (she’s truly helped me step up my yoga game!) Who are your faves?
4. Try a 10 Minute Jump Rope Workout
This one is a total treat for me! Picking up a jump rope brings me back to my childhood days. Honestly, it’s the full body work out you should definitely try! You can even get the kids involved if you’re a parent. Super bonus!
Not only is it really easy (no mad skills needed), the price is right! Jump ropes are easy to come by and don’t hurt the wallet.
Here’s what jump rope brings to the table:
- Amazing cardio
- High impact, weight-bearing exercise (great for your bones)
- Better balance, coordination and flexibility
- Improve overall muscle tone
And, of course, all of the other benefits of exercise apply to this goodie too.
5. Get Your Yoga On
This is obviously another personal favourite! But I love that a yoga session can be as short or as long as you need. And it’s wonderful that this is something you can easily do at home (with the help of Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube if needed).
What’s in it for you?
On top of all of the regular benefits of exercise, yoga brings this to the table:
- Joint health support (great for arthritis warriors – talk to your doctor before diving in)
- Improve balance and flexibility
- Better focus and concentration
- Decrease blood pressure
- Increase empathy and compassion
- Build self-love
- Indulge in moving meditation
And don’t you worry. You do not have to be super flexible and capable of turning yourself into a pretzel to enjoy yoga!
6. Go for a 30 minute Walk
I’ve already touched on this – but you can get all of your weekly moderate exercise needs met with a simple 30 minute daily walk! And I adore that this doesn’t really feel like work. A good walk is relaxing and enjoyable! It just so happens to be good exercise too. Best of both worlds yo!
Here’s some of the goodness you’ll tap into:
- Boost in creativity
- Increase flexibility, balance and coordination
- Ease back pain
- Improve your mood
- Indulge in moving meditation
Along with all of the other benefits that exercise has to offer.
Any workout that you enjoy on the regular is going to support your well-being! Even if it isn’t listed in the options above, there are tons and tons of possible ways to move your body.
Try and find fulfilling and enjoyable ways to move your body on the regular. It can be as simple as a 30 minute walk, jumping rope, biking, jumping jacks or running in place. And never underestimate the awesomeness of putting on your head phones and shaking your booty! That’s a regular go-to for yours truly.
You don’t need to spend a ton of money or even invest a lot of time to get a good workout in on the regular. And you certainly don’t need to sign up for a cookie cutter program that doesn’t feel right for you. There is no one size fits all here – find what works for you and do that!
You owe it to your beautiful body to move and groove whenever you can! It does so much for you after all. And it’s the most valuable thing that you own! Take good care of it and it will take good care of you right back.
How do you make working out a regular part of your routine? What advice would you add to the list? Were there any benefits of exercise that surprised you? Share your lovely thoughts with us in the comments below!
Health and love,
Thought of the day: Even the smallest actions can have an incredibly impact.
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