Up until this year I had been strongly opposed to exercise. I was active in the sense that I went walking, hiking, or biking quite a lot, but I couldn’t keep up with a regular workout routine. In January I made exercising a new year’s resolution (original, eh), and I’ve actually managed to keep it. Since quitting my early childhood education job in April I have had the time and energy to commit to proper workouts six days a week. I’ve noticed benefits from my exercise, some of which were kind of surprising. Here are five benefits of exercise that I’ve experienced.
1. Health and Weight Management
This is a pretty obvious benefit. Since I’ve begun working out regularly I have noticed improvements in my health. My endurance has increased, my heart rate has lowered, and it takes a lot more before I become out of breath. I don’t own a scale, and thus cannot weigh myself regularly, but I do see a difference in my shape and the way my clothing fits. I am becoming lean, my muscles are more defined, and I’m down in clothing sizes. Exercising is shown to improve quality of life and extend life expectancy as well.
2. Increased Confidence
There is some increased confidence with regard to looking more fit as I mentioned above, but this is not my focus. The confidence I have gained is less about my appearance and more about my abilities. From when I began working out until now there are tangible improvements in my skills and strength. It is incredibly empowering to set goals and achieve them. The feeling of getting stronger and accomplishing more difficult tasks over time is a real self-esteem boost.
3. Improved Sleep
Science hasn’t quite been able to figure out the reason why, but exercise has been shown to help sufferers of insomnia. I have never had sleep issues that severe, but I sometimes struggled with falling sleep or maintaining sleep. Since beginning to exercise regularly, I find these are much less often an issue for me.
4. Psychological Treatment
When exercising, the body releases endorphins which reduce pain and create a positive feeling. This is part of why exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for stress, depression, and anxiety. There have been a lot of changes in my life since I began working out, but I believe that exercise has been a big part of my improved mental and emotional well being.
I recently read Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, which discusses the routines of famous artists, writers, scientists, etc throughout history, and was surprised to find that just about all of these creators exercised regularly and thought it vital to their process. It is now believed that bodily movement may be a cognitive enhancer by helping overcome mental blocks or lack of inspiration. I also find that since exercising, I have been able to work better on my writing.
Do you exercise regularly? What benefits have you found?