Benefits of Exercise

brain benefits of exerciseMore and more, I encounter folks who lead sedentary lives. They cite lack of time and energy as reasons why they do not exercise. This saddens me because there are so many people who would give everything they have to be able to move their bodies! It is my hope that the information I present here will inspire you to move your body in some form or fashion most days of your life!

Many people have desk jobs; however, our bodies are not meant to sit all day. After work, folks race home so they can put their feet up and “relax” in front of the TV all evening before heading to bed. Our ancestors were always on the move – traveling from one place to another to gather food and to stay safe.

With prolonged sitting our muscles begin to atrophy or waste away and our butts begin to look like pancakes. Sitting also has a negative effect on your spine from slouching. Not only does this put strain on your spinal cord, but it also constricts your lungs so that you are not breathing deeply and getting the oxygen that your body needs. Even the oxygen that you are getting isn’t distributed effectively because your blood is not moving as well when you are sitting.

To counteract these effects, it’s a great idea to get outside and walk around. Even if you can’t get outside, just getting up and moving around inside is helpful. When I had an office job, what I did was to go for a walk around the building several times per day. These walking trips were my breaks and served to clear as well as focus my mind. I also made it a point of drinking lots of water so that I got up to go to the bathroom from time to time. Finally, instead of sending people an email, I made a point of getting up and walking to their desk instead when I could. If it was an important conversation that needed to be documented, I would send an email summarizing the conversation when I got back to my desk. When I talked on the phone, I would stand and even pace provided it didn’t distract my coworkers. I’d even go to a meeting room so I could move around while not disturbing others. There has also been an increase in the number of standing workstations. These are great because they allow you to stand part of the day and sit part of the day while still continuing to work and be productive. These are just some tips of how to stay more active at the office. What other ideas can you think of? I’d love to hear them!

overall-benefits

According to Men’s Health, there are seven surprising ways that a sedentary lifestyle can affect our lives. Despite one of the issues being specific to men, the other issues affect women equally.

  1. There is evidence that physical activity will help to lengthen our telomeres which are the ends of our chromosomes which are linked to aging. This means that physical activity can actually help to make us look younger as well as feel younger.
  2. Exercising is well known to have a positive effect on our mood. In fact, exercising has been shown to be more effective than antidepressants. Conversely, sitting all the time can actually increase the blues. Even if you are unable to commit a whole chunk of time in a day to exercising, taking small and frequent exercise breaks during the day have been shown to be just as effective. This can look like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, parking further away and walking, going for a short brisk walk, etc. If you can also fit in 30 minutes doing some form of exercise that is great!
  3. There’s also mounting evidence that your risk of cancer increases with a sedentary lifestyle. This sure makes sense to me because when we exercise and sweat, we help our body to detoxify.
  4. Your brain actually becomes less effective with a sedentary lifestyle so if you’re having trouble remembering check in to see if you’ve been celebrating your body with movement lately!
  5. Another study has concluded that even when you are a healthy body weight, long periods of sitting actually increase your blood sugar levels! These blood sugar spikes not only increase your risk of diabetes, but they also increase the amount of fat that your body stores. This is because when blood sugar rises so does insulin. Insulin increases the storage of fat. Odds are that even if you’re skinny, you likely have visceral fat which is the fat around your organs and is actually more dangerous to your health than the fat that we can see. This is what has been coined skinny fat.
  6. Most males carry their excess weight around their midsection. This is not only bad news for their heart, but also for their sexual function in the form of erectile dysfunction.
  7. Being sedentary also affects the quality of sleep that you have. It’s a good idea to exercise several hours away from bedtime; however, as exercising energizes us.

Here’s a short clip that talks about what happens to our bodies the longer we sit.

Another effect of exercising is that it increases the strength of both our muscles and our bones. This is because when we use our bodies and create stress on our muscles and bones, the infinite wisdom of our species kicks in and builds these structures up so that we are protected and can do more.

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There are many forms of exercise that one can do. You don’t have to run for extended periods of time to gain the benefits of exercising. In fact, one of the best forms of exercise for those who can do it is to walk. If a person has issues that prevent them from walking, swimming is an amazing exercise. Similarly, there are many fun things to do to move your body such a Yoga, chair Yoga, aerobics, water aerobics, HIIT (high intensity interval training), body weight exercises, weight lifting, etc. I invite you to explore some different ways to exercise so that you can find what you love. It’s always easier to do something when we love it! For me, exercising each day is a way to celebrate what my body can do not a form of punishment. I invite you to find a way of thinking that serves you and creates an environment of movement! As Nike says, “Just Do It!”