Have you ever left the gym wondering why you went in the first place? Your muscles ache, it’s hard to walk, you’re dripping in sweat, and the realization hits…you now have one less hour in the day to get your ‘to-do’ list completed.
If you are feeling this way, know that you are not alone. Reality is, working out is physically hard and extremely time intensive. Today, 80% of American adults do not meet recommend physical activity guidelines, exercising less than 20 minutes a day.
If you are feeling deflated, and are in need of hard-core motivation, it’s time to consult the hard-core facts about exercise. Sometimes we forget the ‘why’ we do things, and focus solely on liking or disliking the act in itself. Yet, exercise is unique in that it impacts our whole self: body, mind, and emotions. Understanding the various health benefits of being active may be the extra motivation necessary in times when you need a ‘push’ to get going.
There are clear physical benefits of exercise, such as increased muscle strength and tone, weight loss, and improved skin health. These are the visible exercise benefits we know well. Commonly, people exercise to maintain a healthy appearance. Yet, exercise also improves our physical health below the surface. Physical activity strengthens our heart improving cardiovascular function, it helps deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to our body tissues, it strengthens our lungs and bones, and keeps our metabolism going. What we exercisers need to remember is that the physical benefits of exercise extend beyond the act itself by keeping our internal systems running.
An active body also promotes an active mind. Put simply, exercise is key to optimal brain functioning. Research finds that adults who participate in regular exercise (meeting recommended guidelines of ~20 minutes daily) have improved memory, attention, and quick thinking skills to navigate the workplace more efficiently. Regular exercise is also found to protect against brain decay as the body ages, thus maintaining longer mental acuity. Even in children, regular exercise is linked to academic achievement, social skill development, and greater cognitive control. When gym motivation is lacking, it may be helpful to remember that long-term success in the workplace is also linked to healthy exercise habits.
Staying happy isn’t always that easy. America’s work-life balance, or lack of, definitely wears on emotional resilience. Regular exercise often makes people feel more energetic, and many report feeling calmer after exercise. When you exercise, the body releases hormones, such as beta-endorphins that relax us, and serotonin that increases happiness, heightens appetite, and decreases depression. These hormones improve our mood, and ultimately our resilience to handle the ebb and flow of daily life on a happier note.
- Know that your exercise routine is a trifecta: body, mind and emotions grow strong.
- Use your exercise time to refuel your creative mind and emotion. Challenge yourself to unplug from media and let your endorphins spark new ideas.
To learn more, check out the works we consulted:
The State of Obesity: Physical Inactivity in the United States. (2018). Retrieved from: https://stateofobesity.org/physical-inactivity/
Colcombe, S., & Kramer, A.F. (2003). Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: A meta-analytic study. Psychological Science, 14(2), 125–130.
Penedo, F. J., & Dahn, J. R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: A review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 18(2), 189-193.
Stevens-Smith, D. A. (2016). Active Bodies/Active Brains: The Relationship Between Physical Engagement and Children's Brain Development. Physical Educator, 73(4), 719-732.