Working out isn’t all about dropping pounds or prepping for your next triathlon. Regular exercise also gives you a healthy, glowing look and an unmistakable va-va-voom that you just can’t get any other way. The powers of a steady fitness routine are impressive. Regular exercise can help you build stronger muscles, stave off chronic illnesses, and make your clothes fit a whole lot better.
But there's another benefit of physical activity that deserves a shout-out. Exercise makes you look and feel younger. Even moderate amounts of exercise can shave years off your age, no matter how many birthdays you've actually celebrated. Of course, you can't change your chronological age, but exercise can improve your health to the point where you look and feel younger than you are. Behold the physical and mental effects a sweat session can have on your brain and body.
Just reading this list will motivate you to never blow off a gym session again.
Exercise gives you more Vim & Vigor
A workout is like nature's energy drink, firing up your brain and body so you feel more alert and alive. Exercise puts your body in a state of arousal, which translates into more vitality and a greater sense of well being. Daily tasks become less strenuous and require less exertion. It's the kind of pep in your step that makes you feel like you've peeled off a decade or two.
Exercise jumpstarts your sex drive
A sweat session improves blood flow all over your body, including below the belt! Working out brings on more confidence about your appearance and body, and that puts you in a sexier mindset. And don't forget the all-over energy surge exercise offers, which gives you extra fuel so you can rock the sheets.
Exercise keeps you skin soft and glowing.
A dewy sheen on your cheeks thanks to all the sweat dripping off your forehead may not be the only way fitness keeps your skin young. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario studied a small group of adults between ages 20 and 84. The frequent exercisers who were over age 40 had skin that resembled the more supple, elastic skin of people in their 20s and 30s. The difference had nothing to do with sun exposure (which would age your skin faster if you didn't wear sunscreen), reported the research team; they theorized that exercise creates body substances that help slow aging in skin, though they say more research is needed to learn how exercise changes skin composition.
Exercise improves your posture
Thanks to muscle loss and bone density changes, your posture takes a hit as you age. Counteract this with strength training, which builds muscle and bone health, especially in your core and along your spine, so you naturally stand taller and shave years off your appearance. Working out also makes you feel more psychologically powerful, so you naturally stop slouching and straighten up.
Exercise improves your flexibility
Aging doesn't just make your opinions more inflexible—it makes your muscles and joints more fixed in place as well, leaving you feeling stiff and rickety. Regular workouts, especially stretching-oriented routines such as yoga and Pilates, keep you loose and flexible. If cardio workouts are your preference, you can still boost your flexibility by warming up and cooling down with foam roller exercises. This foam fitness tool gets rid of the knots that form in muscle, reducing rigidity.
Exercise boosts your mood
You've heard of runner's high, and that blissful mood boost can happen during any sweat-inducing cardio workout. It seems to come down to endorphins, the body chemicals your system cranks out when you're active. Endorphins are like natural opiates. Some evidence shows that gym sessions can trigger changes in other neurotransmitters linked to pleasurable feelings, such as dopamine. And the confidence kick you get helps you feel happier too.
Exercise helps you sleep soundly
Restful sleep is like a fountain of youth, and exercise helps you achieve it. Research shows that regular exercisers fall asleep more easily and are more likely to experience deep REM sleep. A heart-pumping workout tires you out, sure, but there's more to it than that. Sleeping well helps all the systems in your body function optimally, so you're less likely to feel stressed and then toss and turn all night. A recent study bears this out, finding that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week improved sleep quality by 65%.
The bottom line on exercise
Exercise and physical activity are a great way to feel better, boost your health and have fun. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. Try to engage in a combination of vigorous and moderate aerobic exercises, such as running, walking or swimming. Squeeze in strength training at least twice per week by lifting free weights, using weight machines or doing body weight exercises. Space out your activities throughout the week. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to ramp up your exercise efforts. Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you haven't exercised for a long time, have chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, or you have any concerns.
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