Confession: Though today I am a health coach and yoga teacher, I used to be a bit of a couch potato. I've maintained a healthy weight throughout most of my life, so I didn't think that I needed to bother with working out. Exercise, I thought, was for two types of people: Those trying to lose weight and athletes. I was neither, so why bother?
After college, I worked nights as a newspaper copy editor. The pounds piled on as I ate too much, too late. I quickly realized I needed to do something, so I learned to tolerate - and later to love - exercise.
What a difference that is compared with today: I run a few times a week, practice yoga daily and strength train regularly. Exercise is not a chore; it's an enjoyable part of my day that offers "me time" and much-needed stress relief. The shift from loathing to loving exercise didn't happen overnight. Instead, the more I learned about how it supported my physical and emotional health, the more I became invested in moving my body. Being physically able to exercise is a privilege and an important part of my self-care.
Here are just a few of the many reasons why exercise matters for overall health and wellness.
It can promote a healthy mood.* Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, and some studies have shown that moderate exercise appeared to support the immune system (versus strenuous exercise or inactivity).1 These brain chemicals are what causes that iconic, natural "runner's high," leaving you feeling relaxed and happy after physical activity.* One study found that adults who continued to exercise in middle age were less likely to talk about their mood to their doctors.*
It can help support healthy sleep patterns.* Speaking of being relaxed, one large-scale study found that maintaining regular physical activity helped support healthy sleep in middle-age Americans. Regular exercise helps burn off excess energy, which can also help you catch your regular zzz's.*
It can help keep your heart and lungs strong and healthy.* Working out regularly can help increase "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels and decrease triglycerides, a harmful type of blood lipid.* Exercise also promotes normal, healthy blood circulation, which allows the immune system to do its job efficiently by letting its cells and other substances move freely throughout the body.*
It can provide a natural boost of energy.* Just as you sometimes need to spend money to make money, you sometimes need to spend energy to get energy.* Exercise delivers oxygen and fresh blood to the body, making you feel energized (thanks in part to those mood-boosting endorphins), even if the workout itself is a hard one that leaves your body sore and a bit tired. (That's normal.)
It can help support healthy blood sugar within normal ranges.* In its most basic form, food is fuel. The more you move, the more fuel you'll need, just like with gas in a car. If you're going across town, you don't necessarily need to fill your tank. By burning off some of the calories you consume, exercise helps to support healthy blood sugar within normal ranges.*
It can help keep your bones and muscles strong and healthy.* Consider the patio furniture that you leave outside all winter. What happens when you try to fold up that lawn chair after months of being outside, exposed to the elements? Now think about your body. If you move your joints regularly, you naturally lubricate them and strengthen the connective tissue and surrounding muscles.* Bearing weight as you exercise, by walking, running or doing yoga, can help preserve bone density, which naturally declines as we age.*
It can help you maintain a healthy weight.* Regular physical activity, even at moderate levels, is directly linked to a healthy body weight.* The calories that fuel your body get stored as fat if you don't use them; exercise is a way to burn them off - and draw from your "savings account" of body fat.
It can help you stay alive.* Physical activity helps the body stay healthy and strong, which can even help keep you alive.* Exercise can help you maintain balance, which naturally begins to be a challenge as we age.
If you're new to exercise, start slow and always talk to your health-care provider first. Aim for 150 minutes of activity weekly, or 30 minutes five times a week, which is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association recommend for otherwise healthy adults ages 18-64.
If you have been sedentary for awhile, start small and add activity slowly. Even a few minutes a day will help support your cardiovascular system, and it can promote the release of feel-good hormones, too.* If you don't have 30 consecutive minutes free to move your body, break it up into shorter increments.
Want more from your exercise? Go outside. Research shows that even a morning stroll in the great outdoors can promote healthy cortisol levels, health blood pressure within normal levels and a healthy pulse within normal ranges.* It also promotes the parasympathetic ("rest and digest") nervous system.*
Whether you're a lifelong runner or new to the gym, some post-workout soreness is normal.* TurmericBoost Restore can offer whole-body support by promoting a healthy inflammatory response. And there's also Turmeric Supreme Pain, which supports a healthy response to occasional pain.
Murphy EA, Davis JM, Carmichael MD, Gangemi JD, Ghaffar A, Mayer EP. Brain Behav Immun. 2008 Nov;22(8):1152-5