I'm always on the lookout for studies that
support more reasons to exercise. Because after a long day, sometimes burning
calories alone isn't enough to get me off the couch! Reams of research have
linked physical activity to preventing or improving many ailments, from type 2
diabetes and high blood pressure to cold and flu and gum disease. But: Did you
know exercise could literally boost your willpower, or spark your sex life?
Look at some of the more surprising reasons to break a sweat:
1. You'll improve your willpower.
Can't muster up the mental strength to pass on
that piece of chocolate cake? A quick, high-intensity workout may supply all
the self control you need, reported a recent study in the British
Journal of Medicine, which reviewed 24 relevant papers. The scientists
believe this may have to do with increased bloodflow and oxygen to pre-frontal
areas of the brain, which help moderate one's ability to execute self control.
I know from personal experience that exercise
improves my productivity at work, but studies support this, too: In a recent
survey from the American College of Sports Medicine, 65 percent of employees
who squeezed in exercise during the workday reported more productivity and
better time-management skills, as well as an improved frame of mind. Scientists
believe the brain-boosting benefits of exercise happen on a cellular level, as
working out triggers the development of new cell parts that produce ATP, the
chemical your body uses as energy. This gives you more "oomph" for
physical and mental exertion.
3. You'll up your odds of living a happier
Know that post-workout blissful feeling?
According to a 2012 study from the journal Epidemiology, regular
physical exercise is associated with more happiness over a period of years as
well. The researchers looked at long-term data spanning over fifteen years and
determined that your time on the stationary bike today might also make a
difference in your sunny outlook for years from now.
4. Your skin will
look younger, longer.
That lovely glow you get
after a great workout? Exercise can also have longer lasting benefits to your
skin. Sweating helps unclog pores, and numerous studies have linked exercise to
reduced acne, because it lowers testosterone hormones that have been known to
5. Yep, you'll have a
better sex life.
The Harvard School of
Public Health determined that just 20 minutes of regular exercise a day can
boost sexual response in women. Physical activity actually increases the
flexibility of your arteries, which improves blood flow, well,everywhere,
and that can improve arousal. Plus, exercise triggers hormones and brain
chemicals like adrenaline and serotonin, which help boost arousal as well.
6. You'll beef up your
In a recent study
presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, previously sedentary adults
did four months of high-intensity interval training. By the end, their
cognitive functions—like thinking quickly and making decisions—had improved
significanty. Elsewhere, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning
Research looked at over 1,000 college students and found a strong
correlation: Those getting A grades exercised for at least 30 minutes three to
four times a week, while those getting lower marks exercised fewer than three
times a week.
7. You'll slash your risks
Many studies have confirmed
that the risk of disease like colon, lung, and breast cancers can be
significantly lowered with regular activity. In a 2012 study
looking at over 3,000 women from the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, researchers found that breast cancer risk went down 30 percent in women
who exercised 10 hours per week (that includes even low-level physical
activity, like walking or climbing stairs). Though the largest reduction in
breast cancer risk was found in those women who exercised 10 to 19 hours per
week, a woman's risk was lowered for all levels of exercise intensity, even
light levels of activity. Most recently, a February 2013 study published in Cancer found
that for men of Caucasian descent, exercise lowered the likelihood of getting
Enough research. Time to
get on my sneakers already!