It can be very frustrating to show up to the gym day after day, week after week, and still not see the results you would like on the scale. Sometimes it's enough to make you want to quit your exercise routine, altogether. While that might be the most appealing thing to do in that instance, what if you chose to look at exercise for its many other benefits other than just weight loss? Exercise has been linked to many, many positive outcomes that have nothing to do with losing weight. Improvement in areas related to depression, relationship issues, improving medical issues, bettering sleep, and prolonging a person’s ability to be independent are just a few of the lengthy list of the benefits of exercise.
THE MENTAL BENEFITS
Just looking at the benefits of exercise on a person’s mental health, alone, should be reason enough to stick with your exercise plan, even on the days you’re feeling defeated. Research has shown that 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 times a week can help alleviate many symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. Feeling overwhelmed? Go for a walk. Feeling a little anxious? Get on a bike. Feeling stressed? Swim or walk a few laps in the pool. When we exercise, our brains release chemicals called dopamine and endorphins. These are the ‘feel-good chemicals that can help us to decrease the feelings of anxiousness, stress, and depression. These chemicals in the brain also help us to regulate emotions such as anger and anxiety—a pleasant side effect of exercise which can benefit others around us, as well.
THE MEDICAL BENEFITS
Exercise is also linked to many medical benefits such as lowering cholesterol, helping the body regulate insulin and blood sugars, reduces the risk of heart disease, and lowering the risk of certain cancers. It also helps in reducing osteoporosis and osteopenia. Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality and may be linked to decreasing insomnia. When our heart rates are elevated for a prolonged amount of time during the day while exercising, those same brain chemicals that help with a person’s overall mental state can also help regulate and improve sleep at night. Many doctors recommend appropriate exercise to improve the health status of their patients. It’s always important to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine. Most doctors will be thrilled to have that conversation with their patients!
THE AGING BENEFITS
Being independent and able-bodied is also another pleasant benefit of exercise. When we first wake up in the morning, it can sometimes take a few minutes to ‘work the kinks out’ in the joints and muscles. But after moving around and doing a few stretches, most people can get into their daily routine with few problems. Imagine if you didn’t take the time to stretch or get moving in the morning? Do you think you would feel better or worse at the end of the day? The same can be said for regular exercising as we age—what would happen if we didn’t consciously engage in movement? Do you think your agility would improve as you age or decline? If this is the benefit of exercise that most resonates with you, let your mantra be “Something is better than nothing!” Any exercise or movement that you enjoy and are likely to participate in is going to be better than sitting on the couch all day. Research has shown that it can take 12-15 weeks before you start seeing true improvement in agility as we age. Keep that in mind if when you feel like quitting!
CHANGE YOUR VIEW OF EXERCISE
These are just a few of the benefits that regular exercise is associated with that have NOTHING to do with weight loss. If you are finding that you are frustrated with the numbers on the scale after all your dedication to your exercise routine, try to refocus on some of the many other benefits of exercise. Meeting with a personal trainer is a great way to get started or refocused on how to get the benefits you’d like from exercise. Feel free to reach out to any of the trainers here at Milestone to get you started!