We talk a lot about the physical benefits of exercise, but did you know that there are other reasons to work out that don’t include losing weight, gaining cardiovascular health, or building muscle? It’s true!
Here are just a few:
- Increased mental clarity, and improved memory. Exercise tends to not only make your muscles react more quickly to stimuli, but your brain does too. Exercise has proven to help people think more clearly, and more quickly. Numerous studies suggest that it may be because when you’re learning a new workout routine, you need to engage your brain in a new task that it’s unfamiliar with. It also has to do with blood flow and oxygen to the brain – you’re getting more of both when you exercise, which means your brain becomes more efficient and sharper
- You sleep better. People with consistent exercise programs tend to get more, and better quality sleep, than those without. Exercise allows us to get physically tired which is different than the usual mental tiredness we feel. Not only that, people who work out consistently tend to have fewer issues with sleep disruptors such as sleep apnea, snoring, and others
- You’re perceived as more capable at work. Studies show that those with regular workout routines are seen as more capable, and more competent… simply because they stick to helpful and healthy routines. Sadly, this also does have an impact based on physical appearance. Those same studies also show that fitter and/or thinner people are also perceived as more capable and competent (which, if you’ve been in the workplace, you realize pretty quickly physical appearance has nothing to do with competence)
- You’re more creative. That same stimuli that allows for increased mental clarity allows allows for more creativity. While there are studies that prove that exercise boosts creativity, I know anecdotally, I definitely feel better equipped to write, or solve particularly thorny problems, after a long run
- Mental health issues may be less pronounced. Many studies have shown that those suffering from mild depression may actually be able to avoid medication by adhering to a consistent workout routine. Makes sense. Exercise boosts the “feel good” chemicals your body produces. And in turn, those feel good chemicals offer a temporary boost in mood. Additionally, studies of ADHD children (and adults!) show that exercise has a moderate effect on symptoms such as hyperactivity, and may help manage restlessness and racing thoughts as well
- Your insurance rates may be lower. It’s true! Insurance premiums for those who work out regularly are often lower because the healthier lifestyle also tends to mean instances of other risk factors – such as smoking, excessive drinking, overeating, or obesity-related diseases and conditions – tend to be lower among those that work out than not. Therefore, you save some money (more dollars for workout gear, perhaps?)
- Better sex. Both women and men, with the increase in muscle mass, also increase what are known as androgens – which help maintain healthy sexual function. Additionally, those same chemicals that allow you to maintain better mental health also allow for the emotional resilience to maintain healthy relationships.
- Lowers your risk of dementia. Exercise improves blood flow, and that includes the blood flow to your brain. Which in turn helps keep neurons healthy. Which lowers both the risk of cardiovascular.based dementia, and possibly even neuron-death based Alzheimer’s disease.
- Improves absenteeism rates. Any employers out there? It makes sense to invest in the fitness of your employees. Regular exercise is shown to improve immune system function, lowering rates of colds, flus, and chronic illness.
- More energy. It seems counter-intuitive that a hard workout will give you increased energy, but it’s true. Exercise brings more oxygen to your cells, and, as you settle into a routine, you’ll notice that that alleviates that tired feeling that many of walk around with
So there you have it. Besides the obvious physical benefits of exercise, those less-obvious benefits are also incredibly important to maintaining good mental health, relationships, and clarity.