Health and Fitness: 7 Surprising Benefits of Exercise

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At this point, we’re all pretty familiar with the importance of exercise. If you have diabetes, you’ve probably heard it more than most, as it’s an integral part of disease management. In addition to lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, and reducing your risk of heart disease, it also lowers blood glucose levels, which is a pretty big deal.

While the exercise conversation may be tempting to scoff at or ignore in frustration, there are some truly great things start to happen to your body and mind when you exercise consistently, even if you’re a beginner. Engaging in physical activity is about way more than being a super-athlete who looks great in a swimsuit. In fact, the benefits extend far beyond having a slimmer waistline and toned muscles (though, the value of weight management should not be underestimated).

Check out these amazing, and often overlooked, benefits of being active!

1. It can make you happier

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Exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression by encouraging regrowth of neurons in the region frequently associated with damage caused by the condition. Further, chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which can help improve mood and decrease stress, accompany exercise. And let’s not forget the natural feelings of confidence and pleasure associated with doing things that are good for your health!

2. It’s good for your brain

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Exercise can actually facilitate the growth of new brain cells and expand neural connectivity, which means it can literally improve your memory as well as your capacity to learn new things. It can also increase concentration and your ability to multitask.

3. It gives you more energy

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Ever feel like you don’t have the energy to work out? Well, doing so can actually give you more energy! In addition to improving your endurance and making you stronger over time, exercise improves the efficiency with which your cardiovascular system functions, allowing that energy to be used by the rest of your body throughout the day.

4. It slows cognitive decline

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Studies suggest that exercise is one of the best ways to delay, or even prevent, Alzheimer’s. While the exact reason is unknown, research most commonly attributes it to the increased blood flow to the brain and expansion of neural connections.

5. It slows aging

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Speaking of increased blood flow… that applies to blood traveling to the skin’s surface as well. Meaning: your skin will get more oxygen and nutrients and waste will be carried away from your cells at a faster rate if you’re active. This increase can help wounds heal faster and also encourages collagen production, which diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

6. It can help improve intimacy

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As we’ve established, exercise can improve circulation, which is a key element to male and female arousal. Additionally, strength training is a great natural way to increase the body’s production of testosterone, the hormone largely associated with arousal. The improvement in mood and increase in confidence also carry tremendous benefits for the libido.

7. It can improve your sleep

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Recent studies show that not only can exercise help you get more and higher quality sleep, but that individuals who get better sleep, actually have superior workout sessions. In addition to tiring your body and mind when you engage in physical activity, the benefit of lower stress levels allows your brain to disengage and fall into a sound sleep with more ease.

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L.D. and her ten-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved to Seattle two years ago from Tucson, Arizona. They chose Seattle because they heard that's where they kept all the good coffee - plus Ella learned about grass. L. De Mello likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.