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One of the best and, frankly, cheapest ways to manage the daily pressures of life is consistent exercise. Loads of research confirms that even walking for 20 minutes a day is beneficial. What’s not as well known is how quickly those health gains go away without regular physical activity.
A study published just last year, in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, found that blood flow to the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with emotions and memories, decreased in endurance runners after only two weeks of not training.
The athletes in that study had consistently trained for 15 years or longer. So, for regular people, who may struggle to keep a semi-weekly exercise regimen, the benefits of working out, from the body to the brain, likely dissipate even faster.
10 Reasons to Keep Exercising
To stay fit for life, here are 10 reasons to keep exercising:
1. Good Mental Health
The earliest effects of a drop off in exercise tend take place in the brain. Physical activity induces neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin, glutamine, dopamine, all of which play a role in mood and combatting depression.
2. Better Sleep
That nightly rest is just not as physically rewarding with a sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise improves sleep time and quality, allowing for a well-rested and energetic wakeup.
3. Greater Stamina
With consistent workouts, a person’s lungs move oxygen to the heart quicker. This is known as the VO2 max or maximal oxygen intake, which can decrease by as much as 10 percent with two weeks of no exercise. The greater the VO2 max, the less winded a set of stairs will make you.
4. Healthier Diet
In a strange twist of fate, individuals who exercise regularly crave healthier foods for useful fuel. Falling off the workout wagon is often followed by a drop-off in diet quality because less energy is needed to fuel physical activity.
5. Maintain Strength
Gains in strength begin to fade in the four to six week range of no exercise. The bag of groceries that was once no problem to haul across the parking lot now feels a lot heavier.
6. Weight Management
As the strength goes, so does the waistline. Even if a person maintains the same diet they did with regular exercise, they’re burning fewer calories when the workouts get fewer and far between. This becomes increasingly noticeable in the six to eight week mark of no exercise.
7. Fewer Injuries
Staying fit with a healthy and active lifestyle improves body flexibility, coordination and mobility. Without regular exercise, a person is more likely to injure themselves doing something mundane, like for example moving furniture or taking the trash out.
8. Quicker Recovery
A good measure of fitness is not necessarily how you feel during a workout, but how fast you recover afterwards. With consistent workouts, the recovery from any physical activity is quicker.
9. Clearer Mind
A 2012 study in the Journal Neuroscience found that individuals that worked out in the morning tested better cognitively than those that had worked out during the preceding week or month.
10. Less Stress
Believe it or not, inflammation in the body can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. Regular exercise is a natural anti-inflammatory and actually reduces stress in the body and mind.
It’s important to remember that everyone exercises at their own pace and intensity.
Planning activities that are enjoyable and physical, which kick up the heart rate and cause a sweat, are just as useful than an hour or two in the gym.
As a long-term investment, consistent exercise is key to a mentally and physically fulfilling life.