6 Unexpected Benefits of Exercise

Exercise is something that always comes to mind when we talk about our health. It is good for losing weight, improving fitness, and bettering our general wellbeing. However, exercise can bring many more benefits than you may have thought. This article will talk about six ways in which exercise can improve your life that you didn’t know about.

Exercise can help make you happier

Not only can exercise help us to feel better about our bodies and our appearance, it also makes us happier too! Studies have shown that exercise triggers the release of “happy” chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, which can have a direct impact on our mood (1). This release of chemicals helps explain the feeling of happiness that might be experienced after doing exercise. An example of this is “the runners high” which some people experience while running.

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Recovery from illness

Being motivated to exercise can be difficult at the best of times, let alone when we are unwell. However, it has been shown that exercise can be an important part of helping to recover from illness or injury, as well as reducing the impact of disease on our day to day lives. Many studies have identified that regular exercise, tailored to the ability of different people, has been beneficial in a wide variety of diseases ranging from heart disease to recovering from a critical illness (2,3).

A woman reading a magazine and reaching for a coffee on the table next to her

Increased relaxation

Not only is exercise a great way to have fun and make us happier, it is also good for relaxation too. We have previously talked about how exercise helps increase the amount of “happy” chemicals in the brain, but it has also been shown to help reduce the levels of stress hormones as well (4). As mentioned in our previous article (link to hormones and you) certain hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are produced as part of the bodies response to stress. Although these hormones are needed as part of our response to stressful situations, if they are persistently increased it can have a harmful impact on our general health. Exercise helps to reduce the levels of these stress hormones and therefore makes us feel more relaxed.

A young man sleeping on his bed.

Make us more productive

Improving your general fitness will help to give you more energy throughout the day and prevent fatigue. In addition, it can help make you more efficient at work too. Research shows that employees who make time for regular exercise are more productive than their colleagues (5). Although it can be hard to find the time in a busy schedule, it may be more beneficial to your overall work day than you thought.

A woman wearing glasses working on her laptop.

Slow down the effects of ageing

Unfortunately exercise can’t turn back the clock or reduce our age, but it can help slow down the effects of ageing. It has been widely shown that exercise and physical activity are highly important in reducing frailty and the effects of old age in elderly people (6). Reducing frailty has a strong impact on helping prevent disability and improving quality of life. In addition, exercise has an antioxidant effect, which may help prevent damage and ageing of organs such as the brain, skin and heart (7).

A woman smiling and staring at herself in the mirror.

Improve sleep

Exercise can help you to feel more relaxed, happier and even prevent the effects of old age, but did you know it can help you get a good night’s sleep too? Research has shown that in people suffering with sleep problems, regular exercise can help improve their overall sleep quality (8). In this study, the people that exercised during the day prior to going to sleep found that the sleep they had was more refreshing the next day. In addition, you may find that being more relaxed or worn out from strenuous exercise will help you get to sleep faster.

An old man sleeping outside his house.

In summary, there is much more to exercise than simply helping to slim down the waistline. It can benefit many parts of our lives. If you enjoyed reading this article please let us know, share the page on social media and have a look at other articles on the website.

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  1. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Lynette L. Craft, Ph.D. and Frank M. Perna, Ed.D., Ph.D. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004; 6(3): 104–111.
  2. Early exercise in critically ill patients enhances short-term functional recovery. Burtin C1, Clerckx B, Robbeets C, Ferdinande P, Langer D, Troosters T, Hermans G, Decramer M, Gosselink R. Crit Care Med. 2009 Sep;37(9):2499-505. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181a38937.
  3. Impact of cardiac rehabilitation and exercise training programs in coronary heart disease. Kachur S1, Chongthammakun V2, Lavie CJ3, De Schutter A4, Arena R5, Milani RV3, Franklin BA6. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Jun – Jul;60(1):103-114. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2017.07.002. Epub 2017 Jul 6.
  4. Exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect. Hill EE1, Zack E, Battaglini C, Viru M, Viru A, Hackney AC. J Endocrinol Invest. 2008 Jul;31(7):587-91.
  5. The impact of onsite workplace health-enhancing physical activity interventions on worker productivity: a systematic review. Pereira MJ1, Coombes BK1, Comans TA2, Johnston V1. Occup Environ Med. 2015 Jun;72(6):401-12. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2014-102678. Epub 2015 Mar 16.
  6. Exercise and Sarcopenia. Phu S1, Boersma D2, Duque G3. J Clin Densitom. 2015 Oct-Dec;18(4):488-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jocd.2015.04.011. Epub 2015 Jun 10.
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