We’re all familiar with the obvious benefits of exercise—regular physical activity can keep us looking and feeling fit and healthy, increase our energy levels and confidence, and help us maintain high levels of self-esteem.
Staying active can also help us fight off a wealth of potentially life-threatening illnesses, including strokes, diabetes, and heart disease. What’s more, conquering the often overwhelming “exercise obstacle” and overcoming excuses, apathy, and laziness can remind us that we’re capable of bravely facing any challenge that life throws our way.
Do you have a physically demanding job? Do you often feel exhausted or fatigued as a result? Surprisingly enough, exercising before work can help. Exercise keeps your energy levels high throughout the day while fighting against fatigue.
In a study published in 2008, researchers from the University of Georgia found that inactive people who normally experienced fatigue could increase energy levels by 20% while decreasing fatigue by 65% by simply participating in the regular, low-intensity exercise.
Exercise boosts your body’s fitness level and your mood, both of which contribute to overall health and well-being. This boost is a result of:
- Increased endorphin levels.
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved sleep.
- Improved focus.
Even if you have a physically demanding job, it is important to incorporate low-intensity workouts into your schedule in order to improve your overall performance at work. Low-intensity exercises include walking, the elliptical, yoga, hiking, pilates, and so much more.
When what, and how much?
So…now that you know it does work, let’s explore how you can make it work for you. This includes when what, and how much regarding exercise and brainpower.
Although there’s some debate regarding the type of exercise that best serves to promote brain function, according to a recent article by Harvard Medical School, “researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.”
Research also suggests that although you’ll receive a brain benefit regardless of when you decide to exercise, the most promising results typically occur when you do your workout before or even during a cognitive task. This suggests that we all might learn best while we’re being active, and it may have interesting consequences on how our institutions of learning are set up. Perhaps classes on treadmills or exercise bikes aren’t too far off in the future?
Another big question you might be wondering about is how much exercise you should do in order to receive a cognitive benefit. The same Harvard Medical School report suggests that “standard recommendations advise half an hour of moderate physical activity most days of the week, or 150 minutes a week.”
So how can you incorporate exercise into your life? If you’re worried that you’re simply too busy to exercise or find the very idea of exercise daunting, a great way to take a step forward towards a regular active lifestyle is to start small. Try taking a brief yet brisk walk for 10–15 minutes each day, and gradually increase your workout in both length and intensity as time passes.
Listen to your body, it will tell you when you’re ready to take on more and bigger physical challenges. Remember, every journey—no matter how long or arduous—starts with a single step, and the best way to go nowhere is to stand still and do nothing.
Now that you know all about the many benefits, both physical and mental, that exercise will bring to your life, put the excuses aside and get up and get moving towards your successful future!