By Sabrina Rogers
Helps you sleep better
Although it may seem like common sense knowledge, studies linking regular exercise and improved sleep patterns are fairly recent. These studies have shown that moderate to vigorous 20- to 30-minute workouts three to four times a week help you sleep better. However, you should work out in the morning or afternoon rather than close to bedtime, or you may find yourself too energized to sleep.
Working out helps you fall and stay asleep more easily, and it increases the amount of time you spend in the deepest stage of sleep. It also improves the quality of your sleep by making the transitions between its cycles smoother and more regular.
Slows the aging process & reduces the risk of premature death
Most people lose 10% of their aerobic capacity each year after the age of 30. However, regular exercise can actually make you more aerobically fit as you get older. Working out also improves skin and muscle tone, increases flexibility and reduces the risk of many age-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and stroke (see below).
Builds and maintains healthy muscles, bones & joints
As you get older, your bones lose density (mass), your joints become stiffer and less flexible, and your lean body mass decreases. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to slow or prevent muscle, joint and bone problems. A moderate to vigorous workout program can help you maintain strength and flexibility into your golden years.
Strengthens and boosts your immune system
Various studies have shown that working out improves immune function. In teenage and adult men, exercise is a powerful natural immune cell stimulator. In older men, the functioning of the immune system progressively declines, which can lead to an increased risk of infectious diseases and a reduced response to vaccination. The good news is that regular, moderate cardio workouts, such as jogging, walking or cycling, can partly offset the immune function decline in healthy older men.
Improves mental acuity
Many studies have proven that people who work out on a regular basis have better memory, reaction time and concentration than their sedentary counterparts. And it doesn't take much: walking for 45 minutes three times a week is enough to improve your degree of mental sharpness. Aerobic activity stimulates the middle-frontal and superior parietal regions of the brain, which are associated with attention and keeping goals in mind.
Ask yourself this simple question: Do I feel better about myself when I'm sprawled out on the couch eating a bag of potato chips or after a great workout at the gym? Duh. If you're out of shape and start working out, you'll gain muscle tone, strength, stamina, and you'll feel better emotionally. This will inevitably give your self-image and self-confidence a boost, which is often one of the best motivators to stick to a workout program.
Increases energy and endurance
How many times have you skipped the gym because you were "too tired" to work out? But when you have hauled your ass there despite your fatigue, haven't you felt much more awake and energized afterward? People who work out regularly have more energy, strength and endurance to get through their daily activities than non-exercisers. In fact, you will likely notice this feeling of increased energy and vitality a few short weeks after you start to exercise on a regular basis.
Improves sexual performance and restores libido
It's a fact: Regular exercise can increase sexual drive, activity and satisfaction. Physical endurance and muscle tone improve sexual functioning, and exercise jump-starts the sympathetic nervous system, which increases blood flow to the genital area. The good news is that even low levels of exercise help keep your "equipment" functioning properly; in fact, you can significantly lower your risk of erectile dysfunction by burning only 200 calories a day, the equivalent of walking briskly for about two miles.
Short bouts of intense exercise increase testosterone levels, which can stimulate sexual desire. But gym rats beware; too much exercise can reduce testosterone and other male hormone levels, which can lead to a decrease in libido. Finally, don't stop as you get older; men over 50 who work out regularly have a 30% lower risk of impotence than those who don't.
Reduces stress, depression and anxiety
Exercising reduces stress and anxiety by diminishing electrical activity in tense muscles as soon as you finish your workout, which makes you less hyperactive and jittery. In addition, your body releases more endorphins for an hour and a half to two hours after your workout, which boosts your mood and promotes relaxation. Another benefit of physical activity is that it provides you with the motivation to improve your diet, and proper nutrition reduces stress. There is even evidence that regular exercise can aid in treating clinical depression.
Reduces the risk of many diseases
The best reason of all to work out regularly is that it reduces your risk of many serious and potentially deadly diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, colon cancer, breast cancer (yes, even men can get it), stroke, heart attack, and arthritis.
You've been hearing it for years -- now you know exactly why working out is good for you. Stop making excuses and start integrating regular exercise into your weekly routine. If you still can't find the motivation, why don't you try signing up for a few sessions with a hot female trainer?