You might have started out at the gym looking to improve your leg press or run an eight-minute mile, but the impact exercise can have on your life reaches far beyond your PR. You can seriously improve your physical health, mental wellness and your whole life really. You could become less stressed and depressed, more energized and intelligent and even better about your diet and sleep habits. Seriously, your whole life is going to be better if you make working out a part of your regular routine. Here’s exactly why.
You’ll Feel Less Depressed
One of the best benefits of exercise can be to your mood. Studies have found that keeping up with your fitness and exercising regularly can actually help ward off and treat depression, according to the Harvard Medical School. “While a few laps around the block can’t solve serious emotional difficulties,” Harvard Health Publications says, “researchers know there is a strong link between regular exercise and improved mood.”
When you do an aerobic exercise, you’re prompting your body to release mood-lifting hormones. This is going to help you feel better all around and promote a sense of well-being. “In addition,” says the Harvard Medical School, “the rhythmic muscle contractions that take place in almost all types of exercise can increase levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which combats negative feelings.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of exercise for depression extend beyond the physical too. Exercising regularly and crushing your fitness and physique goals can boost your confidence and getting in shape can help improve your self image. It can help you get your mind off of anything that’s bothering you, give you a good opportunity for some social interaction and provide a healthy way for you to cope with stress.
Get Ready To Become Smarter
When you hit the gym, it’s not only your body that benefits. You could actually get smarter the more you work out. Seriously. The Huffington Post claims that studies have suggested that exercise can improve brain function and enhance your memory. “Getting sweaty increases production of cells in [the] hippocampus responsible for memory and learning,” according to Greatist.
Working out can also boost blood flow to the brain, which can help it function even better, according to the Harvard Medical School. It helps your lungs to function better, which can in turn help you maintain mental faculties and strength as you age. “While all types of physical activity help keep your mind sharp,” says the Harvard Medical School, “many studies have shown that aerobic exercise, in particular, successfully improves cognitive function.” Keep that nugget tucked away in your back pocket next time someone makes mention of meatheads or gym rats being dumb.
Work Hard. Sleep Hard.
Working out regularly improves your life even when you’re not awake. According to the Harvard Medical School, exercise’s effects on sleep are threefold. For starters, making exercise a habit is going to help you fall asleep faster. All that work in the gym is going to make crawling into bed more enticing and your head will hardly hit the pillow before you fall asleep.
Regular exercise is also going to help you fall into a deeper, more restful sleep and wake up less often throughout the night. “In fact,” says the Harvard Medical School, “exercise is the only known way for healthy adults to boost the amount of deep sleep they get – and deep sleep is essential for your body to renew and repair itself.” If you’re looking for deeper, longer and more satisfying sleep that comes to you more quickly, maintaining a regular exercise routine is the best way to achieve that.
Say Goodbye To Stress
You know that feeling you get when you’re leaving the gym after a fantastic lifting session? Or swinging your leg over your bike to dismount after a super satisfying ride? It’s hard to be stressed out when you have that feeling coursing through you, which is why exercise is so great at helping to manage stress.
The negative impacts of stress on your physical and mental health can be combatted by working some regular exercise into your routine. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), exercise is vital for getting a handle on your stress and it’s the most likely solution to be recommended by your doctor. All of the same benefits exercise has for easing the symptoms of depression and improving brain function can help you to manage your stress.
Any type of exercise is going to help the stress of the day melt away, but a form of exercise that gets you outside is even better. According to Business Insider, people who spent more time in a city showed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who were sent to spend time in the forest for a few nights. A poll from the ADAA showed that the most common exercises participants used to manage stress were walking, running and yoga.
Your Diet Might Improve
If you’re expending a lot of energy exercising, you get to make up that energy by eating even more than you would normally. “In fact,” according to BodyBuilding.com, “your metabolism should be raging if you’re training hard, shredding up whatever you ingest and putting it to work building your body. The harder you train, the more calories you’ll need to keep things progressing, so nosh away.”
Of course this isn’t an excuse to go hard on junk food. According to ScienceAlert, exercising might actually make you crave a healthier diet. A report from Indiana University cited by ScienceAlert studied the “transfer effect” and how it might impact your diet. The transfer effect occurs when you learn new skills and make improvements in one area of your life, which then stimulates a desire to make improvements in another. “In this case,” says ScienceAlert, “exercise triggers diet, which is why you might see someone start eating more healthily not long after starting a new gym regime – even if diet changes weren’t originally part of the plan.”
Killing it in the gym might lead you to eat even more than usual, but chances are you’ll be inspired to make better choices in the kitchen.
Going to the gym is going to change your physical shape, sure. But incorporating exercise into your regular routine is going to improve a lot more than your bench press. You could feel happier, less stressed and even a little bit smarter. You might find yourself reaching for a salad instead of a bag of Hot Cheetos and sleeping like a baby as soon as you climb into bed. Any way you look at it, exercise is going to make your life better, plain and simple.