Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Exercise is a very good way of maintaining your physical and mental health. Below are some of the reasons why exercise can be beneficial and some tips on how to incorporate exercise into your daily routine
1. Improved mood
Exercise has been shown to increase our brain serotonin and noradrenaline levels, resulting in an improved mood and reduced feelings of anxiety & depression.
Additionally, endorphins released during exercise reduce stress levels, helping to generate positive feelings. Intriguingly, there isn’t a length/intensity of exercise required to experience this: a study in 24 women who had been diagnosed with depression showed that exercise of any intensity significantly reduced feelings of depression.
The effects of exercise on mood change is not just short term. In a 2007 study, a series of randomized controlled trials comparing the efficacy of anti-depressants to exercise was conducted.
Adults with major depressive disorder were placed into 4 groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, antidepressant therapy or a placebo pill. After four months, patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups had reduced depressive symptoms than the patients on the placebo.
2. Improved sleep quality
Exercise has been shown to improve your quality and duration of sleep.
Exercising in the early morning /afternoon causes your body temperature rises, which can reset your wake-sleep cycle .
The post-exercise drop in body temperature can induce sleepiness later on during the day
In a 2005 study of men and women aged between 18 and 35 found that moderate- intense exercise for 150 minutes per week resulted in a 65% improvement in quality of sleep.
It is important to note that the increased cortisol levels, metabolism and body temperature may interfere with sleep if you exercise too close to your bed time.
Overall regular exercisers have an improved quality of sleep and experience less sleepiness during the day. It has also been found that regular exercise can increase your time in non-REM sleep.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Possibly the most popular benefit of exercise is of course for maintaining a healthy weight.
As most of us know, it is important to balance the energy we can consume with the energy utilised for metabolic processes.
Combining a healthy diet with exercise is a more effective way of keeping physically healthy, as exercise can increase our metabolism, and therefore how many calories you burn in a day.
4. Improved memory
Studies have shown that increased exercise, specifically aerobic, can increase the hippocampual and pre-frontal cortex volume of your brain- regions associated with memory and reasoning.
This is because intense physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, stimulating neurone firing and cell growth. It also has an indirect impact on memory by improving our quality of sleep, and therefore memory consolidation.
It is important to note, however, that exercise has only been shown to benefit visuospatial and not verbal memory in young adults!
Manage your expectations: Remember that you will not be at optimum fitness when you first start exercising, so do not feel discouraged if you tire out quicker than you expected! Some exercise is still better than none. Stick to a routine that works for you and slowly increase the intensity as you become fitter
Plan: It is easier to commit to regular exercise if you have a designated time for it. That way you can build momentum without having to juggle other commitments
Do an exercise you enjoy: There are plenty of exercises for you to try out, so trial a couple until you have found what works for you. For example, some people prefer running outside, whilst others prefer using the treadmill; what matters is what you feel most comfortable with doing!
Keep hydrated and make sure you stretch before exercising! Warm-up with dynamic stretches—active movements that warm and flex the muscles you’ll be using, such as leg kicks, walking lunges, or arm swings—and by doing a slower, easier version of the upcoming exercise. Remember to cool down too!