You’ve just finished a gruelling workout. You’re tired, sore and hungry. You step on the scale. The number went up?! It’s enough to make you want to settle back into the groove on the couch you had previously been working so hard on and catch up on The Real Housewives. What if I was to tell you there are at least 5 substantially more compelling reasons to lace up your sneakers and get moving, that have nothing to do with that pesky scale?
First of all, I think defining our terms is important, so let me start off by saying exercise doesn’t have to mean killing yourself for hours on end at the gym. Exercise is any form of intentional movement, including a brisk walk, gentle stretching or even getting up and vacuuming the house! With this in mind, let’s take a look at what you have to look forward to once you include it in your daily routine.
- Combats Anxiety and Depression
Every time you move your body, you are releasing hormones/neurotransmitters called serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is responsible for mood regulation and a feeling of general well-being (as well as many, many other functions in the body) while dopamine gives individuals feelings of pleasure and reward. Low levels of either are generally associated with a lack of enthusiasm and motivation, low mood, insomnia and ultimately anxiety and depression. The uptick in these neurotransmitters can go a long way in combating these conditions and in fact, some experts suggest that the right amount of exercise can potentially be more effective than some antidepressants for certain people.* On top of that exercise gives your mind something to focus on instead of ruminating over toxic thoughts and can be meditative, making it ideal for those with anxiety. Finally, it gives us a sense of purpose and fulfillment which makes it particularly helpful for depression.
*Never stop taking any medication without consulting your prescribing physician.
- A Better Night’s Sleep
There are a couple of reasons why consistently and intentionally moving your body each day helps out once your head hits the pillow. As we just discussed, increased serotonin is a wonderful byproduct of exercise but it doesn’t just help regulate mood. Serotonin is actually the precursor to a well-known neurohormone people have been taking as a sleep aid for years now, called Melatonin. Both play critical roles in our sleep/wake cycles. In addition, it’s been shown that exercise can increase slow-wave (deep) sleep. Even more simply than all this though, logic would suggest, the more active you are the more tired and primed you’re going to be for sleep when you get into bed for the night!
- The Fountain of Youth
Exercise can quite literally add healthy years to the end of your life. In particular, regular cardiovascular activity will help prevent a whole host of lifestyle diseases that would otherwise take years off of your life, like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. In fact studies (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7707624/) show that the overall mortality rate is reduced by a quarter with consistent and intentional, daily movement. Exercise will also help to maintain strength, healthy bones and balance, all of which typically begin to decline as you age and lead to falls or even certain degenerative diseases. So ditch the eye creams, the real hero of anti-ageing is movement!
- Lowers Stress
It may seem odd that putting your body under physical stress can in fact lower mental stress but there are a few reasons for this. In addition to raising levels of those feel good hormones/neurotransmitters we discussed earlier, it also helps to lower levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the long term. You can also look at it as a way for your body to practice dealing with stress, which will improve pathways, connections and communication in your central nervous system and body systems in general. This improves the body’s resilience to stress and because our nervous system can’t recognize the difference between mental and physical stress this is beneficial in both mind and body. So working out your muscles doubles as a flex for your nervous system making it stronger and better at managing stress, which will lower the perceived level of stress you feel!
- Improves Memory and Cognition
Who would have thought that pumping iron or even a brisk walk could potentially make you smarter, but it’s true! This is probably an indirect result of its ability to lower stress, anxiety and depression as well as improve sleep quality and duration. All of those things contribute to memory loss and a decline in cognition when not properly managed, so it stands to reason that the opposite would be true when you see an improvement in those areas. In addition, it is shown to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to the brain, both of which contribute to preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia. So next time you have a big exam or presentation to prep for, get your body moving!
Bottom line, if weight loss feels like too daunting of a goal or if it simply isn’t your goal at all, try focusing on some of these incredible benefits instead. Exercise is such an amazing addition to your daily routine and an incredible act of kindness and self-love you can show yourself! Just 30 minutes a day can make a world of difference. With that being said, don’t get wrapped up in how much you should or shouldn’t be doing. Just get up and make time to move your body and build and grow from there. Remember to be patient with yourself and do what feels good to you. You won’t regret making this one of your daily rituals!
Movement is one of the 5 pillars of health Dr. Jodi Larry teaches in her Rituwell 10 Day Foundational Reset. She believes that living well comes from the rituals we include in our lives on a regular basis, not through fad diets, cleanses or crazy exercise routines, which is how Rituwell was born!
To learn more about how to Restore your health, join Dr. Jodi for a Free Masterclass on September 17th @ 12:00 pm. Save your spot here.
By Kristin Nixon