I’m starting this article with an honest admission.
Regular exercise has changed my life. Not only has it boosted my physical health, but it has done wonders for my mental state too.
Over many years, exercise has been such an essential part of my daily routine, that on the days when I skip it, I feel like something is missing. I end up feeling slow, lethargic, and lacking motivation.
This is why I’m so passionate about sharing the reasons to embrace exercise with you all today.
Firstly, I want to mention a must-read book on the transformative power of exercise.
Dr. Kelly McGonigal is a well-known health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University and author of the ground-breaking book, The Joy of Movement.
“Movement is not just medicine, it’s a path towards personal growth. Through physical activity, we not only fortify our bodies, but also fortify our minds, reshaping our self-perception and cultivating resilience…..
Physical activity is a reliable way to evoke a ‘feel good’ state. When we move, our brains release a pharmacy of chemicals – like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins – that not only boost our mood and energy, but also buffer against stress, opening avenues to joy and connection.”
So, what are these incredible reasons to exercise?
1) Boosts your mood and mental wellbeing
Ever noticed how your spirit seems to lift and your mind clears after a brisk walk or an energizing workout? That’s because exercise triggers the release of endocannabinoids, our body’s natural mood-enhancers.
We can trace this back to our earliest ancestors from the hunting and gathering days. It’s likely that the “exercise high” evolved to keep us hunting and gathering for longer periods of time, making us more likely to find food and survive.
Regular physical activity triggers the reward system in our brains.
If you’re used to exercising and you miss out for a few days, it can increase anxiety and irritability. It is an addiction, albeit a positive one and you can essentially get withdrawal symptoms.
These little chemicals not only dial up our happiness but also help to keep anxiety and depression at bay. There’s nothing quite like the rush of a post-workout high!
2) Sharpens your cognitive abilities
Exercise isn’t just a full-body workout; it’s also a brain-booster!
Regular physical activity increases blood flow to your brain, sparking the growth of new neurons and improving cognitive function.
Better memory, sharper focus, and enhanced problem-solving skills.
Plus, it’s an effective strategy to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and age-related diseases.
When we are not actively engaged in something and the brain is left to its own devices the mind can go into default mode and we start worrying, planning, and criticising.
Exercise is an effective way to basically quieten down this default mode and exercising outside is even better.
There’s a lot of research suggesting that for people who struggle with a mind that is not their friend, exercising outdoors can be a tremendous relief.
This is so true for me. Being able to get outside and go for a long walk, calms me and helps me to be more present.
3) Packs a punch of energy
Struggling with midday fatigue?
Exercise can help! Counter-intuitive as it may seem, breaking a sweat can actually boost your energy levels.
Regular exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength, leading to increased stamina and endurance.
As you become fitter, daily tasks and activities become easier to manage, and you’ll find yourself feeling less fatigued throughout the day.
When I get the afternoon slumps I go outside for a walk. It makes such a difference!
4) Promotes better sleep
Regular exercise can also be your ticket to a quality night’s sleep.
Moderate physical activity, particularly in the morning or early afternoon, can help regulate your body’s internal clock and promote deeper, more restful sleep.
Just remember, it’s essential to find the right balance intense workouts close to bedtime might leave you more wired than tired.
5) Shields you from chronic diseases
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is like wearing an invisible shield against various chronic diseases.
Regular physical activity supports your immune system and reduces the risk of conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Not to mention, it helps maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar.
6) Fosters a sense of belonging
When people exercise together, they feel more connected with others.
Joining a running club or attending a weekly dance class introduces you to like-minded individuals, creating a sense of belonging. I still remember the first time I joined a dance class and how quickly I bonded with others over our shared passion.
When you are moving in synchrony with others, it teaches your brain to change from a really strong individual focus to a “we” focus.
When we go for walks with friends, research shows that because of the minimal eye contact that happens when we walk together, we’re willing to be more open and calmer when we discuss difficult things.
Personally, I find going for a long walk with a friend one of my most preferred ways to connect, for this very reason. And the increased benefit of being out in nature really helps our wellbeing.
7) Adds meaning to your life
“When you understand that movement can be a metaphor for other things in your life, it can help you recognize your own strengths and reimagine what’s possible.”
Exercise provides a sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s mastering a new yoga pose or beating your personal best in a run, these small victories contribute to a sense of purpose and self-confidence.
Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination, so don’t forget to celebrate your small wins and mastery at gaining a new skill.
8) Introduces you to the magic of green exercise
Imagine this: you’re jogging in a lush park, with the wind rustling through the leaves and the morning sun warming your skin. This is green exercise – physical activity conducted outdoors.
Personally, this is my favorite form of exercise because it simultaneously fills me with a sense of peace and heightens my senses.
People who embrace a bond with nature tend to slip into this alert mode more often. This might be why they often report feeling a deeper sense of satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and more joy in life. They are also less prone to feeling down or anxious.
So, if you’ve been sitting on the fence about exercise, it’s time to get moving!
Find an activity that makes your heart sing, whether it’s walking, running, sports, dancing, gym, yoga, or any other activity that appeals to you.
Regular exercise can truly revolutionize your well-being, leading to a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.
And don’t forget to take your workouts outdoors whenever you can!