The benefits of consistent exercise
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The gym is looking less and less crowded. All those good intentions for the New Year are sliding into oblivion. Let me remind you of all the great benefits waiting for you when you exercise on a consistent basis.
Exercise boosts your immune system.
As little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week will increase the number of T-cells in your body. These specialized white blood cells fight off infection. They are facilitated more with exercise than with diet or supplements.
Exercise increases mental acuity
The simple act of walking briskly increases your blood flow enough to improve oxygen and glucose levels to your brain. Studies indicate that just 20 minutes a day will improve memory, learning abilities, concentration and abstract reasoning.
Exercise reduces the risk of serious health issues
Exercise reduces high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. These three are important indicators of your overall health. High numbers in any of these categories put you at significantly higher risk for stroke, heart attack and diabetes.
Exercise controls your weight
While you must also control what you eat, exercise is a vital component of your plan to control your weight. Burning as few as 150 calories a day can help you shed more than 15 pounds a year.
Exercise improves your mood
After just a few minutes of exercise your body starts producing endorphins. These are hormones that lift your mood and give you a more positive view on life. Some studies indicate that exercise may work just as well as drugs to relieve depression.
Exercise increases bone density
Weight bearing exercise such as walking, weight lifting and push-ups or pull-ups will slow down the loss of bone that occurs as we age. Without exercise, our bones will become brittle and prone to fractures.
Exercise reduces stress and the production of cortisol
High levels of cortisol have been associated with muscle loss and decreased immune response. To improve the benefits of your exercise routine include a combination of cardio, weight training and relaxation (try yoga or tai chi) into your daily routine.
Exercise helps you sleep better
Studies conclude that exercise improves how fast you fall asleep, total amount of sleep and how often you wake through the night. Since sleep is dependant on a drop in body temperature, exercise at least 5-6 hours before going to bed. Also the studies indicated that it can take up to 16 weeks to see the benefit so consistency is the key.
Exercise slows down the aging process
Mitochondria are specialized structures in your body that provide fuel for your cells by combining oxygen and nutrients. As you age these structures are less efficient and fewer in number which leads to an increase in the signs of aging such as muscle atrophy and decreased brain volume. Exercise has a direct effect on the health of these important structures.
Exercise improves balance and flexibility
As you age a loss of balance can lead to falls and even a loss of mobility. A lack of flexibility can put you at risk for injury and a loss of function in everyday tasks. Both of these issues can be combated with exercises routines that emphasize balance and flexibility such as yoga, pilates or tai chi.
Don't let another day go by without at least a few minutes of planned purposeful exercise. Only you can change the path of your fitness level.
Melissa Bagnall is a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University in physical education.