I’m continuing to enjoy reading Dr. Daniel Kirschenbaum’s The 9 Truths About Weight Loss, which contains a lot of very pointed and useful information about diet, exercise, and getting fit. Interestingly, it also points out some of the side benefits of these subjects, and in one place particularly, Kirschenbaum lists 50 meaningful benefits exercise provides, most of which have nothing to do with weight loss, and some of which have a lot to do with self-motivation.
I was already aware of most of these benefits, but it had never occurred to me to list out all the ones I knew, and the effect of Kirschenbaum doing so was impressive. Taking his list for inspiration, I’d like to point out 17 benefits of exercise on mood, motivation, and willpower, many of them paraphrased from Kirschenbaum’s list.
Regular exercise …
1. can provide an uninterrupted opportunity to think
2. relieves stress, while helping to prevent future stress
3. stimulates release of endorphins, brain chemicals that promote feelings of happiness and well-being (this is sometimes known as “runner’s high”)
4. improves social opportunities–and the people you meet when you exercise tend to be happier, better-balanced, more reliable, and more proactive people than the general population due to the effects of regular exercise in their lives
5. improves self-esteem, self-image, and confidence
6. promotes self-awareness if done without distractions
7. fights depression, both temporary and chronic
8. reduces anxiety
9. improves sleep, making you better-rested and more focused
10. contibutes to greater energy and alertness
11. increases endurance for non-exercise activities, both physical (for instance, housework) and mental
12. helps reduce pain and weakness that might otherwise get in the way of other activities
13. improves our ability to relax quickly
14. promotes clear thinking
15. improves willpower through practice
16. makes it possible to get a larger perspective on other parts of our lives
17. provides a model for self-improvement in other areas
Of course, exercise is also nearly indispensable if you’re seeking weight loss and has many non-weight-loss-related health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and triglycerides, improving cardiovascular health, preventing problems with posture as we age, extending lifespan, lessening back pain, improving digestion, improving cholesterol levels, preventing osteoperosis, and many others.
As long as I’m plugging exercise, I’ll also mention that not only does strenuous exercise get progressively easier and more pleasurable as you go from trying it out to doing it regularly, but it also doesn’t even have to be strenuous to provide good effects. For example, both in terms of mood and weight loss (two of exercise’s greatest benefits) walking alone, done very regularly and preferably for at least 30 minutes at a time, can yield enormous returns.
The most impressive benefits of exercise start when you exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes or longer each time, and they increase dramatically if you exercise every day or close to it (for aerobic exercise: strength exercise seems to work best if you give that a resting day between days you work out).
Photo by Sean Dreilinger