Unless you live under a rock, you’ve seen myriad news reports over the years about how to live a healthy lifestyle and why healthy living is so important. Those news reports and articles often mention losing weight as the ultimate goal – probably because of our obesity epidemic and the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes – but we sometimes forget the unseen benefits of exercise on our bodies.
1. Improves your HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cholesterol is a natural compound found inside our body’s cell membranes but increased levels will increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Triglycerides are the fats that accumulate in your blood stream when you indulge in an unhealthy eating regimen. Improving both of these levels keeps your blood flowing easily, which reduces your risk of stroke, which is good news for your brain.
2. Improves your heart and lung health. If you get winded walking down your driveway to check the mail, it’s a sign that your lungs aren’t working at optimal capacity. Improving the health of your heart and lungs improves endurance, improves the amount of oxygen transported to your cells and organs, but also improves your cognitive function, according to a study in Sweden published in 2012.
3. Lowers your blood sugar levels and risk of Type 2 diabetes. Moderate exercise is one of the ways to combat high blood sugar levels which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Daily exercise forces your heart to beat faster and your lungs to work harder. Both of these functions require glucose – blood sugar – which is always present in the blood stream. The faster your exercise, the more glucose you burn, and the more sensitive your body becomes to insulin. This sensitivity allows less insulin to be produced and to work more efficiently throughout your body. “High blood glucose levels, over a number of years, can damage the nerves, including those of the brain, which can increase the risk of dementia.”
4. Improves your libido. When you’re stressed, your body produces too much cortisol – a stress hormone – which can cause a decrease in libido over time. Stress also plays a part in erectile dysfunction for men. Exercise releases stress, which lowers cortisol and releases dopamine from the brain; all of this can often improve one’s sex life. Increased dopamine can help lower anxiety levels.
5. Promotes better sleep habits. Daily exercise tires out the body but can also tire out the brain so it’s ready to rest at bedtime. Your quality of sleep improves with exercise as does the duration; just don’t exercise too close to bedtime or you’ll be energized instead of tired. Adequate sleep time helps the brain recover from the day but also helps improve the neurons’ communication with the rest of your body.
Any one of these examples should be enough reason to add exercise into your daily routine.
As the experts note, you don’t have to run a marathon or be a bodybuilder to benefit from exercise. Start off with walking or swimming so as not to injure yourself and build up your duration and intensity from there. Couple your exercise times with friends and you won’t even realize that you’re working hard.
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