We all know that exercise is good for us. Adding regular physical activity to your routine is one of the easiest prescriptions for healthy living, yet one of the hardest it seems to commit to. But we don’t need to be a marathon runner to realize the many benefits exercise can offer us. Simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator, raking the leaves or shoveling snow can all add up. Experts say adding just 15 minutes a day of moderate activity can not only help us live better, but also longer.
Here are some extra benefits from working up a sweat that you may not know :
Get Happy – Studies show regular physical activity can boost mood, self-esteem and overall outlook on life. By reducing stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and increasing feel good endorphins, exercise can alleviate depression and reduce anxiety. So, before reaching for that ice cream or pouring that glass of wine, consider a brisk walk outdoors or maybe some yoga stretches.
Sleep Better – Those that are more active physically tend to sleep sounder, longer and have more energy throughout the day. While research suggests doing more vigorous activity during the daytime to promote better sleep, more relaxing exercise like yoga and tai chi before bedtime can help us fall asleep faster. By adding regular exercise to your routine, you can skip that sleeping pill, still get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to start your day.
Boost Brain Power – By helping us stay alert during daytime hours and sleeping better at night, exercise has been found to increase productivity in the workplace. Energy levels are increased and the brain is flooded with chemicals that enhance functions such as memory, problem solving, and decision making. Students too are more engaged in the classroom and achieve better grades than their sedentary peers.
Relieve Pain– Yup, exercise can even reduce pain. We’ve all heard of endorphins, the chemicals that our body releases when we exercise, but did you know endorphins have analgesic properties? That’s right, working much in the same way as morphine, endorphins act as pain killers by interacting with receptors in our brain and reducing our perception of pain. Without the side effects or risk of addiction, it seems exercising regularly can help keep chronic pain in check.
Live Longer – As many as 250,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are attributable to a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of physical activity can contribute to hypertension, osteoporosis, many cancers and even diabetes. Even very light exercise can reduce death from any cause. One study found adding 15 minutes a day of activity can extend your life by three years! And, let’s face it, the fitter we look and feel, the more active we want to be and the more active we are, the more we are capable of being….in reverse we call it the “use it or lose it” affect. And by taking activity outdoors and into nature, we reconnect with our younger selves.