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Beyond weight loss: The benefits of exercise

Lankenau Medical Center December 24, 2015 General Wellness

Most people plan to begin a fitness routine with the goal of weight loss in mind. But exercise offers more benefits than just fitting into a smaller size.

“Although maintaining a healthy weight is important, weight loss doesn’t need to be your primary reason for exercising. Being physically active benefits your physical and mental health in a variety of different ways,” says Madelaine Saldivar, MD, internal medicine specialist at Lankenau Medical Center.

Exercise improves your mood

Bad mood? A workout can help. Spending 30 minutes taking a walk through the neighborhood or sweating out your stress in a Pilates class stimulates brain chemicals that make you feel happier, more relaxed, and leave you with higher self-esteem and confidence. Keep that in mind when you need a little boost on the morning of a big presentation, too!

Exercise gives you an energy boost

Although you may not feel like getting off the couch or out of bed, moving can help give you the energy you need to make it through your day. Physical activity delivers oxygen to your body, and challenges your heart and lungs to work more efficiently.

To get more energy, you don’t need a full workout in the gym. If you’re feeling a little sluggish in the middle of an afternoon, take a walk around the office to try and perk yourself up.

Exercise helps you sleep better

If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, consider hitting the gym before calling a sleep specialist. Regular exercise can help you fall asleep more quickly at night, and improve your sleep quality.

A word of warning, though: Try and plan your workouts for at least three hours before bed to allow your body time to cool down, as cool body temperatures are best for sleep.

Exercise can lower your risk for health problems

When it comes to lowering your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, joint pain, and certain cancers, there are many risk factors you can’t control. One that you can? Your activity level. A physically active lifestyle can lower your risk for these health conditions, and many more.

Exercise improves your brain function

Physical activity isn’t just good for your body—it’s good for your brain, too. Regular cardiovascular exercise results in an elevated heart rate and increased blood flow to the brain and body, which can reduce dementia risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Exercise could help you live longer

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015, researchers found that middle-aged adults who worked out for the recommended 150 minutes per week at a moderate level were 31 percent less likely to die prematurely than study participants who did not exercise. Even participants who did not meet the minimum of 150 minutes per week lowered their risk of premature death by 20 percent.

The bottom line? For a longer—and healthier!—life, put exercise on your to-do list.

Whatever your motivation for starting an exercise routine, there’s no better time than now to start.

“A combination of aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching exercises like yoga will give you a comprehensive fitness routine that will benefit your health in many different ways,” says Dr. Saldivar. “Before you begin any routine, seek medical clearance from a doctor first, and work with a physical therapist or certified trainer to develop a safe routine.”

Ready to get started? Visit our website to make an appointment with a Main Line Health physician or to set up a complete exercise routine with a Main Line Health physical therapist.