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In a world of do-it-yourself (DIY), exercise is the ultimate health DIY.  Exercise is the self-help for just about all that ails you, both mentally and physically as well as socially and economically.   Let me hit some of the highlights.

#1 You will be stronger.

This is the most obvious one.  Whether it is strength training for you muscles or cardio for your heart or both for your immune system.  Increasing the demands on them while providing increased blood flow rich in oxygen and nutrients only makes them grow stronger.

#2 You will be mentally sharper.

Exercise causes the release of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) from you muscles, fat and liver.  BDNF stimulates neuron generation and cerebral vascularization especially to the area of the hippocampus.   The hippocampus is the storage place for our long- and short-term memory and is essential to the learning process of acquiring, retaining and routing information.  It is also essential for spatial recognition and navigational abilities.

#3 You will have more energy.

The release of norepinephrine, endorphins and dopamine during exercise act to recharge the brain by boosting alertness and focus to combat mental fatigue.   Most of the time we feel tired it is from the mental fatigue.  Stress hormones typically peak in the late afternoon when we are winding down the day’s activities.   The moment we slow down a little we become a couch magnet.  Exercise gets the blood circulating again to the muscles, organs and the brain boosting oxygen levels and causing the release of dopamine, endorphins and norepinephrine to reduce the stress feeling and combat fatigue.

#4 Relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.

Exercise is the single best way to naturally increase serotonin levels. Increasing serotonergic activity is the way many of our modern antidepressants and anxiety medications work.  When compared to non-exercisers, people that exercise regularly report lower scores on depression, anxiety and stress surveys and studies.  It may take several weeks to really feel the affect, but exercise done regularly strengthens emotional health.

#5 Become more productive.

Within a few weeks of starting to exercise regularly, the increase in energy, improvement in focus and reduction in stress combine to improve work output and time efficiency.  Estimates are typically 20-30% boost in productivity from starting an exercise program.  So if you schedule time in you routine to get some exercise you may find you get that time back and more by working more efficiently.

#6 Build a stronger immune system.

Through the mobilization of white blood cells and increasing the circulation in lymph channels, exercise increases the immune systems surveillance and response capability.  It also enhances repair by increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.  In fact, exercise has proven to speed recovery from mild to moderate infections and tissue damage.  The adage that you “need to rest” when you are sick, may actually not be such sage advice for mild infections and injuries.

#7 Reduces your risk of future health problems.

What does the medical research show?

  • Lowers your blood pressure, increases your good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers vascular inflammation reducing your risk of health disease and strokes.
  • Improves insulin sensitivity and reduces your risks of diabetes.
  • Strengthens bones and reduces the risk of falling by improving balance and strength. This lowers the risks of osteoporosis and helps prevents hip and spine fractures.
  • Reduce the risk of developing dementia and Parkinson’s disease through the positive effects in the memory processing and dopamine regulation.
  • Improves emotional health decreasing the risk of depression and anxiety.
  • A stronger immune system decreases susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections.

#8 Relieves pain.

Exercise releases the body’s natural “morphine” called endorphins.   Endorphins bind pain receptors in the nervous system that decrease overstimulation and lowers pain.   Studies have shown that exercise reduces low back and arthritis pain as well as improves level of function.   It also helps prevent migraines and tension headaches.

#9 Promotes better sleep.

When we exercise our internal temperature elevates and later when we are going off to sleep it drops.  The larger drop in our core temperature helps us switch into “hibernation mode” allowing us to fall asleep faster.  By reducing stress and anxiety as well as inducing a stronger sense of well-being the quality of sleep improves

#10 Enhances sexual activity.

You feel and look better which lowers social inhibition and promotes more confidence making you more attractive to others.  For both men and women exercise is the single best way to increase sexual drive and performance.   Exercise increases testosterone for men and arousal hormones for women.  Studies show an increase in the level of sexual satisfaction for people that exercise.

In summary, I hit some of the highlights of why you should exercise so the next time you are looking for the nutritional supplement, pill or app for that, why not try a little exercise.  I bet it works!

Weight Management Disclaimer

I left off weight loss from the highlights.  Why?  Unless you plan to do hours of moderate to high intensity exercise daily you are simply not going to burn enough calories to see substantial weight reduction.  Only dietary calorie reduction with a low-calorie diet will cause rapid weight loss over the 3 to 6-month period.  But to keep the weight off and maintain a higher metabolism longer than 12 months, studies show you will need to add regular exercise to your schedule.