From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

By Matt Mayer, MSc

You're tirelessly working out but still can't hit the magic number on the scale. Don't pull the plug on the treadmill just yet.

Although weight loss may be your main reason for getting active, the benefits are so much broader. Here some workout perks that may surprise you.

Total tune-up: Physical activity lowers more than scale readings; it also reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. Breaking a sweat helps manage risk factors including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Plus, the impacts your body endures during regular physical activity build bone mass (or prevent its loss), which can help prevent osteoporosis.

Brain booster: Stepping away from your desk may seem unthinkable on a busy work day, but an active break is one of the best ways to recharge your mental batteries. Research has shown that your decision-making, productivity, and quick thinking are heightened after just 30 minutes of aerobic activity.

Stress buster: Everyone handles stress differently but the results are generally the same: irritability and deterioration of your health. A brisk walk or run takes you away from your stressors physically and mentally, giving you time to re-evaluate. And regular activity can help condition your body to handle stress by improving your self-perception and trait anxiety (how you react to stress), reducing your blood pressure and regulating your heart rate.

Pain reliever: Chronic lower back pain can leave you bedridden and inactive. Yet inactivity may make the situation worse. For some, training the core muscles can help stabilize the back and reduce back pain by improving strength and flexibility. Improving your conditioning is not limited to your back. Talk to your physician to learn if an activity program could help reduce or eliminate some chronic pain.

Sleep aid: Can't resist hitting the snooze button? Sleep disturbance becomes more common with age, but going short on z's can cause depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. Getting active can help you fall asleep faster and experience longer periods of slow-wave sleep – key indicators of more restful sleep.

Sex enhancer: Getting active can also help rev up your sexual health by boosting self-perception, delivering a higher level of satisfaction and improving performance and endurance (sex is an aerobic activity, after all).

There are many other benefits of regular physical activity; focusing on the ones that matter to you will help you make it a priority. But don't take my word for it! Schedule 30 minutes of activity, in periods as short as 10 minutes, every other day (or more) this month and see how you feel.

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Before starting any physical activity routine, please check with your healthcare provider.

Matt Mayer is an exercise physiologist.

Posted: February 2013

Heart and Stroke Foundation


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