There’s a reason your co-worker, best friend and brother can’t get enough of their workouts. Exercise is a body- and mind-altering experience, and those who engage in it understand why it’s truly worth the sweat.
“It can literally change your mind, your body, your metabolism, hormones, bone structure, lung capacity, blood volume, sex drive, cognitive function and so much more,” Chris Fernandez, an ACE-certified personal trainer, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Adults should aim to get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, plus two strength-training sessions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. You can divide that into at least five days of 30-minute workouts, or fewer longer sessions, as outlined in the chart below. If you prefer vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, like HIIT or running, aim for 75 to 150 minutes a week.
|Duration of Moderate-Intensity Cardio
|Minimum Cardio Workouts per Week
However you choose to move, make it a point to vary your workouts. It’s easy to fall into a rut of jogging every day or even lifting weights on back-to-back sessions. But by mixing up your workouts, you’ll challenge your body in new ways.
A well-balanced workout routine includes aerobic exercise and resistance training, as well as mobility and recovery days, explains Leada Malek, a certified sports and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and board-certified physical therapist.
Avoid skimping on rest days. If you don’t allow your muscles to recover properly in between your workouts, you run the risk of overtraining, which can reverse the benefits of exercise and cause muscle fatigue and weaken your immune system.
Once you have a consistent workout routine in place, you’ll start to reap the many perks of regular activity. But why is exercise so good for you?
“Workouts can have a compounding effect on each other, and after several weeks, individuals will see clear and measurable benefits from their workout regimen,” says Alex Rothstein, an exercise science instructor at the New York Institute of Technology and certified personal trainer.
But the benefits of exercise extend beyond stronger muscles and more stamina. You may also improve your mood and energy levels and help your heart health. Here are a few reasons you should make an effort to move more throughout the week. Visit firstpost.com/.
1. It May Help You Live Longer
There is no shortage of studies that tout the life-extending effects of exercise. A July 2020 BMJ study found folks who work out regularly with a mix of cardio and strength training had a greatly reduced risk of all-cause mortality, including from heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
In fact, research shows that as little as 5 to 10 minutes of vigorous exercise (or 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise) each day is linked to a lower risk of death from any cause, according to a March 2019 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The best part: You aren’t required to do any specific type of exercise. Walking at a cadence of 100 steps or more per minute is tied to benefits, per a small May 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
If weight lifting is more your style, research from a June 2016 study in Preventive Medicine shows pumping iron is also linked to your lifespan. Researchers conducted a 15-year study and found older adults who lifted weights at least twice a week had a 46 percent lower risk of all-cause, cancer and cardiac death compared to those who didn’t lift.
And it’s never too late to start exercising. A June 2019 study in BMJ of 14,599 adults ages 49 to 70 found those who increased their overall physical activity to 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week had a 24 percent lower risk of death.
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2. Exercise Can Improve Your Cognitive Function
Working out can support focus and attention, as well as increase your motor reaction time — all reasons Wendy Suzuki, PhD, professor of neural science and psychology at New York University, personally likes to break a sweat in the morning.
“Exercise has the capacity to change the brain’s anatomy, physiology and function for the better,” after just one workout, even a walk, Suzuki says.
Doing some form of exercise, especially an aerobic workout, improves blood flow and delivers oxygen directly to the brain tissue, says Jocelyn Bear, PhD, a board-certified neurologist based in Boulder, Colorado.
Breaking a sweat also releases brain-derived neurotropic factors, or growth factors, that “stimulate the birth of even more new brain cells,” Suzuki says. These new brain cells allow the hippocampus — a part of the brain involved in memory and learning — to grow bigger while increasing memory function, according to a January 2011 research article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
“The hippocampus is one of the most vulnerable [of the major brain structures] to neurodegenerative disease states,” Suzuki says, noting that Alzheimer’s disease attacks it with its plaques and tangles.
“Exercise does not cure Alzheimer’s or aging, but the more you work out, the more cells and connections are made and the longer it takes for those aging processes to have an effect,” she explains.
According to Bear, “having a high cardiovascular fitness, even in middle age, has been tied to a lower risk of developing dementia or a later onset of dementia.”
An April 2018 study in the Journal of Neurology evaluated the exercise habits of older adults in Sweden over a 44-year period and found those who were considered high-fit (people without health conditions who were physically active) staved off the onset of dementia by 9.5 years compared to those deemed low-fit (who had health conditions) and medium-fit (people who engaged in little physical activity and lived with some health conditions).
3. It Can Lift Your Spirits
Exercise can also help your mood by decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. That’s because “every single time you exercise, it’s like you are giving your brain a bubble bath of mood-enhancing neurochemicals,” Suzuki says.
When you move, your body releases endorphins, aka feel-good chemicals, and serotonin, which contributes to less depression, stress and anxiety and enhanced emotional wellness, says Julia Kogan, PsyD, a certified group fitness instructor and coordinator of an integrative primary care behavioral health program at Jess Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago.