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7 Surprising Ways Exercise Changes You

More than a key component of weight loss success, exercise has the power to change everything from our metabolic functioning to our daily mood. Our bodies were made to move, and the advantages of daily activity extend far beyond the eventual image in an "after" photo. In fact, you'll begin reaping the benefits today! If you're looking for further inspiration to maintain your workout routine (or get started in one), check out these 7 ways exercise can enhance your wellbeing.

It helps you become a better fat burner.

As you incorporate more movement into your day and gradually increase your physical activity, your body becomes better at burning the appropriate fuel for energy – fat! An important caveat here is being mindful of the type of activity, duration and intensity. Knowing your personal heart rate training zones is imperative to get the most bang for your buck during your workout session. It’s not uncommon for people to work out too hard for too long and only burn carbohydrates during that time instead of the fat they’re trying so hard to lose. The opposite can also be true. Many of my clients have felt like they’re pushing themselves too hard, experiencing the discomfort of breathing heavily, and think they should stop. In reality, they’re not even in the correct training zone yet and have given up too soon. Simple tweaks and adjustments to your training plan can go a long way, and meeting with a fitness professional can help you achieve those optimal results.

It actually gives you energy.

To exercise or not to exercise?  That is the question. When you get out of the habit of making exercise and daily movement a priority, it’s more difficult to get back on the wagon. Laziness sets in, fatigue seems abundant and energy is virtually non-existent. However, just one bout of activity typically turns that vicious circle right around. It seems backwards really - to gain energy, you should expend energy! However, physical activity activates numerous muscles groups, improves digestion, and gets blood and oxygen pumping throughout the body to help deliver nutrients to tissues, improving their ability to produce more energy. In the end, more movement equals more energy!

It improves your sleep.

Now you’re probably thinking, “You just said exercise gives me more energy. Wouldn’t that make sleeping more difficult?” Luckily, it’s generally the opposite! Think back to when you were a kid and would finally get to bed after a fun day of running around and playing. As soon as your head hit the pillow, you were out cold until morning. Now, you certainly don’t need that much activity to still reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep, but it does paint a nice picture of the correlation between exercise and sleep. The jury is still out on what time of day is best for exercise to feel the positive effects of improved sleep, but most research shows that even fitting in some activity throughout your day rather than being completely sedentary (i.e. just 10 minutes a day!) can have positive effects on your sleep quality and duration.

It helps curb cravings.

You may think that if you work out you’ll burn more calories, which will only make you hungrier throughout the day. While everyone’s hunger responses are slightly different, exercise actually helps normalize blood sugar, insulin, and leptin levels in your body – all of which impact your hunger in some way, shape, or form. With these metabolic players better managed and maintained, your blood sugar doesn’t have quite the peaks and valleys that send your hunger levels (and energy levels) crashing. I’ve also noticed that when I’m more consistent with my workout regimen I’m much more apt to make healthier food choices like whole foods.

It will encourage a positive mindset.

We’ve all experienced the positive feeling we get after we exercise. Even if the workout wasn’t quite your best or wasn’t your favorite type of activity, in the end you still feel great about yourself for putting in the time and effort to do it. That positive mindset doesn’t stop there either! Exercise is a healthy stress on the body. When our bodies are under stress, they release numerous hormones, neurotransmitters, and even endorphins – the stress-related chemicals that are responsible for feelings of euphoria! Endorphins have pain-relieving properties that positively impact your mood and make you feel good. These are the same brain chemicals that give endurance athletes the famous “runner’s high.” This good-mood mindset can carry throughout the course of your day and can even help with long-term depression and anxiety.

It makes you more alert.

All that movin’ and groovin’ you do during exercise really gets the blood pumping, heart beating, face flushing and sweat flowing! These increases improve oxygen flow to the brain and even boost neurogenesis (production on new neurons) as well as neuroplasticity (production of new connections between neurons). What does this mean? Better oxygen flow, more neurons, and improved connections between neurons have been shown to halt and even reverse brain atrophy – with as little as three hours a week of brisk walking! With every workout or walk, you’ll be burning calories AND improving brain function and memory.

It makes you feel less stressed.

Regular physical activity can bring significant changes not just to your heart, metabolism and body but also to your mental well-being. Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever and help your mind and body reboot from all of the daily stressors you’re exposed to. The endorphins produced during exercise that support cognitive alertness and positive emotion also decrease the feelings and impact of stress. Because stress can have such a negative effect on our health, it’s good to incorporate activities known for their potent stress-relieving characteristics, such as yoga, Pilates or (on a less active note) meditation.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Now that you’re motivated to move more, what activity will you start with? How has exercise changed you? Share your favorite effects of working out!

Written by Becca Hurt, MS, RD Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


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