As the celebrations and festivities have concluded, the parties attended and the new year already rang in; the resolutions follow closely behind. It is typical for most people to start the year off strong; holding fast to their newly formed hopes and goals. It is also typical for most people to drop off as the year carries on, studies reveal that by the end of the year an alarming 8% of people reported to have actually been successful in their endeavors. Everyone has their own specific goals for the new year, however research also shows that exercise can be found on the list of at least 50% of Americans.
It’s no wonder exercise can be found on the list of half the country’s population, there are so many ways in which physical activity can benefit the human body.
First, and perhaps the main reason why so many make it their goal to exercise more is the fact that it can help lose and control weight. As you move and exercise your body, there is an increased need to supply energy. By means of increasing the amount of calories it uses or “burns”, the body will get the energy it needs to sustain exercise. Increasing the calories burned (along with safely decreasing the calories taken in from food) will assist in losing weight. However, evidence shows that the best way to maintain weight is engaging in regular physical activity.
It has been widely proven that exercising works to combat a wide range of diseases and bodily disorders; and I mean a lot! Physical exercise aids in both the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, improving lipid levels, glucose tolerance, insulin resistance and blood pressure. Hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis and cancers are less likely to arise in people who are not regular exercisers.
Exercise can not only improve physical health, but that of cognitive health as well. By exercising, it is possible to increase problem solving abilities, learning and emotional balance while decreasing the possibility of cognitive decline such as dementia. In one study, it was found that those who exercised more scored higher in memory and thinking tests and had a 31% lower risk of developing dementia. Upon exercising, hormones like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin are released into the brain. This helps to decrease feelings like anxiety, sadness and depression.
Physical activity can also be an opportunity to meet new people and be a form of socialization. There are many different ways to make exercising fun and enjoyable; especially today with so many different gyms and studios where all kinds of classes are offered, it increases the possibility of meeting people and making friends! Not only meeting people, but community and a sense of belonging is formed among those who are interested in the same kind of activity with a similar goal.
A restful night's sleep is in store for those who exercise routinely. It has been shown that through physical activity, one can increase slow-wave sleep as well as overall total sleep time. **Pro Tip: One caution offered up by researchers is avoiding exercising too closely to bedtime as you may be too energized by the activity to fall asleep.
Exercise looks different for everyone; what one person enjoys, the other may dislike. Even though research agrees exercise is beneficial for everyone, this is by no means a “one size fits all” method. Luckily there are so many different ways to move and be active. It should be something that you enjoy and look forward to doing, that will also help you in keeping to a more consistent schedule! There are so many options for you to try and choose from that are different and a little out of the box:
Going for a walk
Once you decide what kind of activity you like and works best for you, the next step is consistency. Research is unanimous in this, in order to reap the many benefits of exercise listed above, it needs to be done often and over the span of long periods of time. The CDC states most adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate level activity weekly, which comes out to about thirty minutes over five days. However you decide to break up your workouts or whatever it is you choose to do is completely up to you. Enjoy your time, enjoy your progress and enjoy the health benefits along the way! It is my hope that exercising is not only a new years resolution to be added to your list but rather, adopted as a lifestyle.
And that’s the dirt!