What do you if you want to lose weight or improve heart health? Exercise, of course. But working out isn't just about the calories. There are several (and arguably better) reasons to hit the gym since exercise can enhance almost every aspect of your life.
From skin health to mood improvement to strengthening your immune system, physical activity offers so many benefits. Even ten more minutes of walking each week can elongate your life. If you need a better reason to hit the gym than counting calories, read on.
Exercise Promotes Skin Health
Oddly enough, sweating from exercise can do wonders for your skin. According to a 2015 study in the journal Aging Cell, exercise can enhance skin tissue, boost skin metabolism, and delay visible aging. And these results have little to do with weight.
Exercise helps the skin because it causes healthy blood circulation, dermatologist Ellen Marmur told WebMD. Blood carries nutrients, such as oxygen, to the skin, and sweat removes toxins. Just remember to wash your face after working out, and don't wear makeup to the gym.
It Helps You Think And Plan
Scientists from the UT Southwestern Medical Center examined the effect exercise had on people with mild cognitive decline. They found that people who worked out scored better on tests that involved critical thinking and planning. Exercise acted as a "computer cable," connecting different areas of the brain, said neurology professor and lead author Rong Zhang.
In 2018, an analysis of 149 studies in the Frontiers of Psychology came to the same conclusion. They reported that physical exercise promotes "cognitive functioning" and "a condition of wellbeing." So work out for your brain!
Fortify Your Immune System
A common myth says that exercise lowers immunity, but research argues otherwise. The myth stemmed from a 1980s Los Angeles Marathon, and in 2018, scientists from the University of Bath revisited these findings all other immunity studies since then. In short, they concluded that working out encourages your body to fight against illness.
According to the researchers, immune cell count can increase up to 10 times during a strenuous workout. Although previous reports suggested otherwise, scientists claim that people receive fewer infections when they regularly work out. Keep your body active even during flu season.
Active People Make More Money
For some reason, studies have found a connection between working out and making more money. According to a study in the 2012 Journal of Labor Research, people who regularly work out receive a 9% higher salary on average. Scientists still aren't sure if this is correlation or causation.
Studies have also suggested that the reverse is true. In 2007, researchers suggested that people who don't exercise regularly receive 18% less money than those who do. "Regular exercise," according to the research, means at least three hours per week.
Working Out Reduces Cravings
Science suggests that after you work out, you're more likely to eat healthier. According to a 2015 study in PLoS ONE, people who exercise experience fewer cravings. A 15-minute brisk walk was all that was needed for participants to eat less sugar, even when they frequently ate sweet snacks.
In 2016, research in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that working out can increase satiety. Participants experienced fewer hunger pangs after exercising for a short while. If you're struggling with a strong sweet tooth, visit the gym and see how you feel afterward.
It seems that the phrase "rest and relaxation" is not entirely correct. In a review of 168 studies, the journal Sports Medicine reported that exercising helps to reduce stress. According to research participants, the opposite was also true; people who don't exercise are more likely to become stressed.
In 2012, scientists at the University of Maryland found a more surprising result. People who exercise are more equipped to handle future stress, they claim. "If you exercise, you'll not only reduce your anxiety, but you'll be better able to maintain that reduced anxiety when confronted with emotional events," says author J. Carson Smith.
Exercise Increases Productivity
Although some people think that they don't have time to exercise, research suggests that working out increases productivity. During a 2008 study, researchers noticed that participants' time management went up by 72% on days when they exercised. Interestingly, low-intensity workouts improved peoples' work better than high-intensity ones.
A bit more movement can enhance your workplace flow, too. A study in BMC Public Health analyzed the effects of the "sit less, move more" work program. Employees who "moved more" got far more done than those who didn't. That may be reason enough to take a walk during your work break.
Exercise More To Live Longer
According to a 2019 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercising a bit more often can extend your lifespan. In fact, you only need ten more minutes of exercise per week to make a difference, researchers say. This small workout lowers peoples' risk of heart disease, obesity, and cancer.
Exercise has an anti-aging effect on your body. Brigham Young researchers found that physically active women in their 70s had the heart, lung, and muscle health of someone 30 years younger. What's a better reason to work out than living longer?
Strong Body, Strong Mind
Some researchers suggest that regularly exercising can make you smarter. According to a review of 111 studies in the Journal of Applied Physiology, aerobic and strength exercises raise cognition function. Active participants performed better on tests and could multitask better than sedentary participants.
Athletic children also perform better academically. During a study in Educational Psychology Review, physically active children responded better to complex situations and social situations. When you take a break from studying or working, consider a quick workout to increase your intelligence.
Although exercise can wake you up, it'll eventually help you settle down. A study in Mental Health and Physical Activity showed that 150 minutes of exercise per week improved participants' sleep by 65%. That's only five 30-minute workout sessions per week.
After examining 2,600 people, the researchers also found other benefits. Around 68% of people who exercised did not experience leg cramps during sleep, and 45% could concentrate better during the day. If you've been having trouble sleeping, try working out more often.
Hitting The Gym Together Can Strengthen Your Relationship
New research on exercise suggests that people who sweat together, stay together. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, one study reported that couples who exercise together experienced more intimacy and relationship satisfaction. Even a 15-minute workout could increase these feelings because of the hormones released while working out.
Couples who exercise together are also more likely to stick to a routine. Researchers at Indiana University discovered that couples who attend the gym together had a dropout rate of 6.3%. Meanwhile, those who went separately had a dropout rate of 43%.
It Sparks Creativity
According to recent research, a sedentary lifestyle may do more harm than good for artists. Research in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience found that people who exercise performed better on creative tests than those who didn't. Athletes became better at thinking of more than one solution for a problem.
According to neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, exercise encourages the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus. This helps people to "imagine new situations." Nature Reviews Neuroscience also suggests that creativity helps people to solve future problems.
It Alleviates Anxiety
In June 2019, researchers asked people with anxiety to report how exercise affected their mood. After working out, many said that they felt more prepared against developing anxiety symptoms. High-intensity exercise worked better than low physical activity, says the journal Anxiety-Depression.
Even so, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests that even a ten-minute workout can do wonders on anxiety. "Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect," says Michael Otto, a professor of psychology at Boston University.
Exercise Prevents Cognitive Decline
In September 2019, researchers found that exercising may delay the onset of Alzheimer's and dementia. They discovered that aerobic exercise protects the hippocampus, the area of the brain that deals with memory. Participants who walked or ran for 120 minutes each week had slower cognitive decline, says the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
In Advances in Physiology Education, an analysis of 59 studies concluded that exercising might prevent cognitive disease, especially in adults over 65. They noted that working on aerobics, weight training, and stretching all helped to guard the brain over time.
Exercise Boosts Self-Confidence
That surge of confidence people feel after working out isn't just in their heads. The American Psychological Association says that people receive positive feelings after five minutes of sweating. Exercise releases beta-endorphins, mood-enhancing hormones that promote feelings of confidence.
In 2000, a study in the International Journal of Sport Psychology concluded that consistent workouts greatly improve self-esteem after six months. Even a 30-minute walk is enough to do the trick. The journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment suggests that physical activity "influence[s] self-esteem directly and indirectly."
Reduce The Amount Of Migraines
If you frequently get headaches or migraines, you may want to work out more. During a 2011 study, participants exercised for 40 minutes three times a week. They experienced significantly fewer migraines than people who remained sedentary.
Why does exercise help headaches? Researchers still aren't sure, but scientists in Current Pain and Headache Reports suggest that exercise could influence the nervous system. The "runner's high" may reduce pain, if only temporarily. Another theory suggests that exercise sends oxygen to the brain, which lowers the number of migraines that people experience.
Reduce Chronic Pain
People who are in pain may not want to move around, but physical activity could be just what they need. In 2019, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh analyzed 75 studies and concluded that exercise could reduce certain pain. In particular, they found a positive link between working out and chronic back pain.
In the 2017 Cochrane Library, scientists observed over 260 studies on exercise and chronic disease, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, injuries, and postpolio syndrome. They noted that working out has a small to medium effect on pain and could soothe symptoms in some cases.
If you struggle with self-control, working out could improve that. In 2013, research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggested that exercise could encourage impulse control. Throughout several studies, participants demonstrated more behavioral control when they hit the gym more often.
According to further research in Behavioral Modification, exercise causes people to pause. Before caving to an impulse, people experience "delay discounting" where they debate their choices. Regular exercise lengthens this delay, which may prevent people from jumping to a decision.
Researchers now recommend exercise for those who struggle with addiction. In PLoS ONE, a meta-analysis of 22 studies confirmed that people who exercise have a better abstinence rate. Working out improves patients' withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, and depression, especially concerning substance abuse.
During another small study in 2010, participants worked out three times a week for two to six months. That's all they needed to help them complete the intervention. While exercise isn't a cure-all, it can encourage people during hard battles, such as substance abuse.
It Makes People Happier
Although exercise does not cure depression, it makes a noticeable difference. In February 2020, researchers from Yale and Oxford collected data from 1.2 million Americans. Their overwhelming conclusion is that people who exercise tend to feel happier for longer than those who don't.
In January 2019, research in JAMA concluded that exercising soothes symptoms of depression and may help to prevent depression in some people. Again, exercise is not a treatment for depression, but it can improve treatment, scientists say. Even small exercises, such as washing dishes and doing laundry, can help you feel happier.