Finding it hard to keep motivated as the impending winter days become shorter, colder and darker? Don’t worry, us too. So, to help boost our motivation we’ve compiled a list that’s part therapy session, part inspirational keepsake on the top 20 reasons to exercise - print it off and stick it in your office, fridge door or bedroom ceiling - anywhere where it might help act as a happy, healthy reminder of why exercising is awesome.
1. It boosts productivity
Studies have shown that that exercising releases more of the chemical compounds used in brain activity and cognition, thus improving your ability to focus and concentrate.
2. It helps manage weight loss
Exercise burns calories as you expend energy with each movement. Your metabolic rate also increases with physical activity and remains elevated even while at rest - meaning you continue to burn calories even when you’re not active.
3. It boosts your mood, and combats depression
When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals such as endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine, which all work together to positively affect your mood and improve anxiety levels.
4. It helps reduce stress
Regular exercise tends to decrease the usual amount of cortisol in your bloodstream, leading to a reduction in symptoms of stress.
5. It improves self esteem
Creating an exercise plan and sticking to it allows you to enjoy a sense of achievement, alongside the sense of pride you’ll feel with your ever-improving physique.
6. It improves sleep patterns
Exercise works to strengthen circadian rhythms, promoting daytime alertness and helping to bring on sleepiness at night.
7. It fights dementia
Exercise leads to an increased blood flow to the heart which in turn can cause an increase in blood flow to the brain, improving cognitive function.
8. It improves skin tone and clarity
By increasing blood flow, exercise helps nourish skin cells and keep them vital, whilst also helping to carry away waste products, including free radicals, from working cells.
9. It helps reduce the risk of major illnesses
Regular exercise enhances the immune system and decreases the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and cancer by up to 50%.
10. It lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Exercise reduces LDL cholesterol, the kind that clogs arteries. It also reduces your blood pressure, relieving stress on your heart.
11. It helps promote healthy pregnancy
Although exercise might be risky in some cases, the benefits of exercising during pregnancy generally far outweigh the risks and some women can even exercise up until the third trimester. Relaxation exercises, Kegel exercise that strengthen the pelvic muscles and back exercises are all important for pregnant women.
12. It strengthens bones
Exercise together with a healthy calcium intake, helps lower your odds of getting osteoporosis and other arthritic conditions as you grow older. The NHS recommends doing at least five hours of weight-bearing exercise a week.
13. It improves memory
In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
14. It improves your sex life
This reason seems to be two-fold: psychologically you feel better about yourself and more inclined towards sex, and physically, being fit improves libido, blood circulation and sexual functioning.
15. It plays a role in preventing cancer
The Seattle Cancer Research Centre has found that at least 35% of all cancer deaths may be related to being overweight or due to a lack of activity. Exercise is believed to speed the passage of food through the colon, thereby reducing the amount of time that any toxins are in contact with the body. Overweight people also tend to have more insulin, which promotes the growth of tumours. For women, exercise reduces the level of oestrogen, a hormone linked to breast cancer.
16. It improves muscle endurance
By improving your muscular endurance, you not only improve your muscles' capabilities to contend with your daily activities, but you also help your muscles get through longer workouts at the gym.
17. It helps manage chronic pain
Certain muscular exercises can help reduce symptoms and long-term pains by strengthening the muscles around the affected area.
18. It improves digestion
Exercise improves blood flow throughout the body, which includes your digestive system. Keep your body moving with regular exercise, and you can keep your digestive tract moving, too.
19. It improves your eating habits
When you’re working hard to keep your body fit, it’s only a matter of time before you clean up your eating habits too, to make the whole effort worthwhile.
20. It increases your lifespan
Research by the American Heart Foundation found that for each hour of regular exercise done, you'll gain roughly about two hours of additional life expectancy, even if you don’t start until middle age - so, what are you waiting for!