Thinking about skipping your morning walk? Think again, says Caitlin Reid – here are nine convincing reasons why you should go for one right now!
1. You’ll sleep better tonight
Would you believe that exercise has been shown to improve sleep as effectively as benzodiazepines, a type of sleeping tablet? Taking yourself for a regular walk in the park, or jogging on a treadmill, can help you sleep more deeply and reduce your likelihood of waking during the night. Just don’t exercise too close to your bedtime, as this can increase the body’s core temperature and disrupt your sleep instead.
2. You’ll have more energy today
How often have you done some exercise, and immediately felt more energetic afterwards? Even if you finish your session exhausted, you’ll benefit in the long run – over time, aerobic exercise boosts your energy levels, increases your stamina and reduces feelings of fatigue. And you’ll have more mental energy too, with studies showing that those who exercise regularly show slower cognitive decline and retain learning ability.
3. You’ll reduce your risk of heart disease
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to show exercise reduces the risk of heart disease. Being active lowers blood pressure, improves lipid profile by increasing HDL cholesterol and reducing LDL cholesterol in the blood, and improves endothelial (cells that line blood vessels) function so blood flows more smoothly, making blood clots less likely to form. And all of these help the heart operate better.
4. You’ll get an instant mood boost
You’ll feel better after exercise – and that’s proven. It boosts mood by promoting the release of endorphins – the body’s painkillers which help alleviate stress and anxiety. Exercise also reduces symptoms in people suffering depression. Just how it helps remains a mystery, but evidence suggests it raises mood-boosting neurotransmitters in the brain and reduces levels of stress hormone cortisol, improving symptoms of hopelessness and self-doubt.
5. You’ll reduce your cancer risk
Research suggests regular exercise helps reduce the risk of certain cancers, including breast and colon, by as much as 40 per cent, and may help protect against prostate cancer. Benefits extend to those diagnosed with cancer, as studies show exercise has positive benefits for improving surgical outcomes, managing treatment side effects, improving psychological health, maintaining physical function, and reducing fat gain and muscle and bone loss.
6. You’ll have more life in your years
…. And more years in your life! No matter what your age, keeping up a regular aerobic exercise routine, such as walking briskly for 45 minutes a day, will help to improve your posture, balance, coordination, reaction time and muscle strength. This powerful combination of benefits contributes to reduce our risk of falling, boosting our quality of life and improving the likelihood of maintaining our independence as we get older.
7. You’ll find it easier to manage your weight
Exercise is one half of the energy balance equation (nutrition being the other) and can have a huge impact on your ability to maintain or lose weight. Exercise helps control weight by using excess kilojoules that would otherwise be stored as fat. Including at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days is recommended for both weight loss and maintenance.
8. You’ll improve your blood glucose levels
Regular exercise increases insulin sensitivity in the muscles, helping to control blood glucose levels and to prevent any large fluctuations. For healthy people, a high level of physical activity is associated with a 20–30 per cent reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For people with diabetes, exercise reduces insulin resistance and burns glucose, thereby helping to control blood sugar levels.
9. You’ll improve your bone health
Bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by getting stronger. And it’s not just resistance training that’s good for your bones – any exercise that involves bearing your weight, such as running, walking or games such as tennis, also helps. Do some cardio exercise on a regular basis, and you’ll help your body to build denser, stronger bones (and muscles), reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.