Reasons to exercise
Good for your heart? Check. Useful for weight loss? Definitely. Helps to lower your risk of disease? Sure can. But you know all that already. Here’s what else you can look forward to when you get a regular dose of physical activity.
1. Better memory skills
And it’s an effect that kicks in after just three months of regular cardio exercise, say researchers in the US. It’s all thanks to the increased blood flow that physical activity generates. The good news is you don’t even have to be super fit to enjoy the brain boost – the study found that even a small improvement in fitness does the trick.
2. Increased quality of sleep
“Exercise requires a certain level of physical exertion,” says exercise physiologist Luisa Coluccio, “and your body naturally needs time to recover from that, a process that can result in better, less broken sleep.” But the shut-eye improvement isn’t just because you’ve exerted more energy: scientists say exercise can ‘tweak’ your circadian rhythm (the 24-hour ‘body clock’ that helps us sleep and stay awake at appropriate times during the day) to encourage a better night’s sleep.
3. Improved mood
And your good mood will last for up to 12 hours post-workout. That’s according to another study out of America, which found that all people, regardless of age, gender or fitness level, experience the positive effects. How hard do you have to work out to flick your ‘happy switch’? Moderately. The researchers found that walking or light cycling was enough to boost mood.
4. Less irritated
Particularly if you get physical on a workday. UK scientists discovered that people who did a workout prior to hitting the office or during their lunch break wound up feeling less stressed compared to the days they spent being sedentary.
5. Confidence booster
“Realising what your body is capable of through exercise, and even feeling a little burn in a muscle that you may not have known existed before, can really make you appreciate how your body functions and how everything works together. And that can certainly result in an increase in body confidence,” says Coluccio. When American researchers put it to the test, they found that regardless of whether you hit your fitness goals, exercising regularly helps you feel more confident and comfortable in your own skin.