exercise is good for your heart and can help keep the pounds off.
But aside from these “typical” health benefits, what else can it do for you?
It turns out that exercise is good for your body in many different ways.
In fact, it can pretty much help support every single organ in your body.
Below, we’ll explore some of the less commonly cited benefits of exercise that are often overlooked.
1. Exercise Slows Down the Aging ProcessExercise preserves the length of your telomeres, protective fragments at the end of chromosomes linked to slower aging.1
A study conducted in England showed that people who were physically active had longer telomeres than inactive people.2
2. Exercise Increases Testosterone LevelsOptimal testosterone levels maintain vitality, energy, mood, and overall well-being. As men age, levels can decline significantly. Exercise increases testosterone levels. And research shows that older men reap the benefits as well.3,4
3. Exercise Decreases Hot FlashesSome women think exercise causes hot flashes, but research actually shows that the opposite is true.
According to a study conducted by the Pennsylvania State University, women who engaged in moderate aerobic exercise were less likely to get hot flashes within a 24-hour period.
Women with a lower level of fitness had less benefit.5 The exact mechanism is unknown, but scientists think that exercise balances the nervous system, making hot flashes less likely.
4. Exercise Helps Keep you “Regular”Exercise gets your digestive tract moving. It causes your intestinal muscles to squeeze, helping food to pass along your gut. In fact, people with chronic constipation have been found to benefit from exercise programs.6
5. Exercise Decreases Joint PainMany people suffering from arthritis avoid exercise, thinking it will cause pain. But exercise typcially alleviates joint discomfort.7 It maintains joint flexibility and muscle strength — two keys to healthy joint function.
For some, exercise may be difficult due to existing pain. However, taking a pain reliever one hour before a workout can be helpful for some.
6. Exercise Protects Your Liver FunctionApproximately 30% of Americans have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD),8 a relatively benign condition in which the liver stores too much fact. Unfortunately, it can occasionally progress to serious liver disease in some and lead to permanent scarring.
Clinical studies show exercise decreases liver fat stores. In one study, an 8-week resistance exercise program reduced liver fat by approximately 13%.9
7. Exercise Improves SleepA study conducted at Stanford University found that older people who exercised slept better. Specifically, these individuals had less difficulty falling asleep and slept for longer periods of time.10
Exercising too close to bedtime may keep you awake, though. For this reason, it’s sometimes a better idea to exercise in the morning.
8. Exercise Boosts Cognitive FunctionExercise improves the hippocampus, the part of your brain that regulates memories.11 Research has shown that physically active adults perform better on cognitive tests than sedentary adults.12
The cause could be brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a substance which increases during aerobic activity11 and causes brain cells to grow.
So what do you think? Will any of these often-overlooked benefits help you get motivated and moving? We certainly hope so!
NOTE: Before engaging in any exercise program, first consult with your doctor.
- Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012 Jan 31;109(5):1743-8.
- Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jan 28;168(2):154-8.
- Sports Med. 2010 Dec 1;40(12):1037-53.
- Metabolism. 1996 Aug;45(8):935-9.
- Menopause. 2012 Oct;19(10):1095-103.
- Georgian Med News. 2011 Sep;(198):29-32.
- J Physiother. 2011;57(1):11-20.
- Cleve Clin J Med. 2008 Oct;75(10):721-8.
- Gut. 2011 Sep;60(9):1278-83.
- JAMA. 1997 Jan 1;277(1):32-7.
- Physiol Behav. 2011 Oct 24;104(5):934-41.
- Psychol Aging. 1989 Jun;4(2):183-9.
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