The Many Benefits of Exercise

The Many Benefits of Exercise
In the early 1980s a fitness craze swept the country. Gyms opened up in every community. There were Jane Fonda videos, TV shows like The 20 Minute Workout and Richard Simmons was *everywhere* in his red and white shorts encouraging people to get in shape. Even the fashion of the day was inspired by exercise gear—leg warmers, spandex and cut off sweatshirts.

Some of clothing styles (like leggings) have come back in full force, but apparently not the focus on fitness. The obesity rates are startling. The Center for Disease Control reported that over the last 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. More than one third of adults in this country are obese.

According to, walking is the best way to lose weight. But that’s not all. Exercise offers a number of other benefits.

Increase your energy level

An article on the Mayo Clinic website reports that regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. “Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently,” states the site. You’ll be less winded when you do your daily chores.

“Think of your muscle fibers as energy-producing furnaces,” writes Robert K. Cooper in Get out of Your Own Way. “They need to be stoked throughout the day, not just once in a long while. They thrive when they’re used. They wither when they’re not.”

Rejuvenate your brain

A New York Times article called “How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain” contends that exercise seems to reverse or slow the brain’s physical decay that happens as we age.

“Beginning in our late 20s, most of us will lose about 1 percent annually of the volume of the hippocampus, a key portion of the brain related to memory and certain types of learning,” states the article.

The good news is that exercise can “jump-start” neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells. Studies based on mice and rats found that rodents who ran for a few weeks had double the amount of neurons in their hippocampi as sedentary animals. This means that just as you can bulk up your muscles with exercise, you can do the same thing with your brain!

Decrease stress

When you’re stressed your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol have been linked to elevated blood pressure, weight gain and other health concerns. “Exercise essentially burns away the chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine,” states an article on In addition exercise releases endorphins into the system. Endorphins are known as the “happy” chemicals because they produce positive feelings in the body.

“A simple program of regular exercise is all it takes to reduce stress related health problems,” continues “Exercise can even eliminate some of the so called ‘internal’ causes of stress, which are related to one's frame of mind and outlook on life.”

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