Health & Fitness: Exercise’s Hidden Benefits

By Kim Duke NETA & AFAA Certified Trainer

As our weather warms, you can’t help notice the number of folks outdoors exercising. These folks are exercising in an attempt to shed pounds, tone muscle and look better.

But numerous research studies have uncovered many other benefits to working out — ones that aren’t necessarily visible from the outside.

Here are some of the awesome ways exercise can benefit your mind, body and soul:

It zaps anxiety. Ever notice that you can start a workout feeling stressed and anxious, and end it feeling good? It isn’t in your head. Or, actually, it is. According to a new study from Princeton University, exercise appears to change the chemistry of the brain by causing the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps quiet brain activity and minimize anxiety. The study found that people who ran regularly had a low reaction to stressful situations, even if they hadn’t run in more than 24 hours.

It boosts immunity. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of certain serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It can also decrease your chances of developing — and getting stuck with — more common illnesses, such as flus and colds.

It brings on better sleep. If you’re having sleep problems, skip the pills and hit the pool, track or fitness studio. According to numerous studies, people who exercised regularly for about 10 weeks reported sleeping better than they had previously.

What exactly does “better” mean? In this case, it translated to dozing off faster and having a decreased need for sleep-promoting medication.

It decreases PMS. Women often report feeling irritable and bloated before their periods, but exercise appears to minimize these conditions. In a survey of nearly 2,000 New Zealand women, researchers found that those who exercised, rested and wrote in a journal about their symptoms fared better than those who took specific vitamins or followed other DIY advice.

It gets you in the mood. If you feel good about yourself you are more apt to feel sexy — but that’s not the main reason exercise can lead to sex. For men, exercise can lower the risk of erectile dysfunction, and it gives both genders stamina and feel-good vibes about the body.

It strengthens the brain. Studies have found that working out can lessen the severity of memory problems in older adults, and even decrease the risk of diseases like Alzheimers. It can also have a positive benefit on the brain function of younger people.

So, whatever you choose to do as your form of exercise, the benefits you will gain will far outweigh any excuse that keeps you from moving your body in the right direction.