Everyone enters into a healthy lifestyle for various different reasons but I think it’s fairly safe to say that most choose to for the obvious physical benefits that regular exercise has to offer. You’d be surprised though, regular exercise has a lot more to offer than just a bikini body to die for or a six pack that would put everyone else to shame.
Some days the more vain side of exercising just doesn’t cut it as enough motivation to get to the gym so just for you, we’ve compiled a list of 10 non-physical benefits of exercise.
First up is the fact that regular exercise can have a positive effect on your sleeping pattern. Not only does it help you to fall asleep faster but it also can help to deepen your sleep, making you feel better rested all round. Maybe avoid exercising too close to bed time though as this may leave you feeling too energized to be able to fall asleep…
2. REDUCES STRESS
Stress relief serves as the most common of mental benefits offered up by regular exercise. Through carrying out regular exercises this increases the concentration of norepinephrine within the body – a chemical that moderates the brain’s response to stress. So not only does exercise help to reduce stress but it also enables boosting of the body’s ability to deal with stress.
3. BOOSTS YOUR MOOD
Ever wondered why even though you’ve spent all day dreading going to the gym you always feel so much better afterwards? This is because the chemical reaction of your body to physical activity results in stimulation of various brain chemicals which may leave you not only feeling happier but also more relaxed.
4. INCREASES SELF-ESTEEM
Following on from the point above you’ll find yourself feeling much better about your physical appearance and about yourself in general when you engage in physical activity on a regular basis which in turn then boosts your self-confidence and your self-esteem. As a result of this increased self-esteem, a person’s self-image of themselves become much more positive and can elevate someone’s perception of their attractiveness, regardless of age, gender, race etc.
5. FIND A LOVE FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Exercising outdoors 9/10 times makes exercise much more exciting and offers an opportunity to shake up your fitness routine with a change of scenery from the gym. The fresh air and the freedom of exercising this way boosts chemicals within your brain even more to improve your mood and self-esteem. Not to mention the Vitamin D top up you’ll be getting from soaking up the occasional Northern Irish sunshine that we’re lucky to see once in a blue moon.
6. BOOST CREATIVITY
Lacking inspiration at work? Some days our brains just aren’t up to it and we’re left feeling pretty dull and deflated. As shown by research, those of us that participate in regular exercise are more productive and energetic than those of their work peers that don’t. Further to this a tough session at the gym has been proven to boost creativity for up to two hours post work out. So next time you’re feeling a little lost for fresh ideas head to the gym for a quick workout to refresh both your mind and your body.
Why not grab a gym buddy or join a local team? Studies have shown that people actually perform much better when partnered with someone for a workout and what’s even more interesting is that the power of being part of a team can be strong enough to improve athletes’ tolerance for pain. It’s all about not wanting to let someone else down, either that or it all comes down to the effect of good old competition. Grab a partner and push each other to really work hard in your next workout. Good news for your social life too!
8. PREVENT COGNITIVE DECLINE
It’s not a pleasant topic but it’s also no secret that as we get older we start to slow down a little both physically and mentally and things can start getting a little hazy. But with a little help from our good friend regular exercise this can be prevented or at least slowed down. Again, this all comes down to those chemicals in our brain, hard at work. When we work out, certain chemicals in our brain, this time ones that help to support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus which is an all important part of the brain whose role it is to help learning and memory. While we aren’t saying that exercise can cure the likes of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, it definitely helps to prevent these diseases.
9. BOOST YOUR MEMORY
Following on from the point above regarding prevention of degenerative diseases, regular exercise has also been proven to sharpen your memory. It increases the production of cells within the hippocampus mentioned above and as a result has led to a link being established between children’s brain development and fitness levels. This isn’t just applicable to kids however, research also shows that in adults regular exercise has led to improved vocabulary retention.
10. ADDICTION CONTROL
This non-physical benefit of regular exercise is one of the most important in my eyes. When you carry out exercise this leads to a release of dopamine, also known as the ‘reward drug’. This is a chemical released by the brain in response to any form of pleasure be that exercise, sex, food, alcohol or drugs. With a name like the ‘reward drug’ its unsurprising that some people become addicted to this feeling and become dependent on certain substances i.e drugs or alcohol that that produce dopamine. However, the good news is that exercise can help in an addiction recovery and can effectively distract drug/alcohol addicts from cravings (at least in the short term).