Many of us grew up with the idea that exercise was work, and not very fun work, at that. Remember gym class when everyone had to line up and do jumping jacks and other calisthenics that seemed both pointless and humiliating? At some point in the semester someone was going to write down how many sit-ups you did, how fast you ran and whether you managed to find the strength for that one measly pull up.
No wonder “exercise” seems like something you should do rather than something you want to do. The problem might be with the word itself. Maybe eliminating the word “exercise” and replacing it with “go for a walk” or “go for a bike ride” or “put on some music and dance” would make simply moving your body more inviting.
Heaven knows there are excellent reasons for doing so. Recently Jeremy Dean, a psychologist who writes about research into human behavior at a website called PsyBlog, compiled a list of 20 research-proven reasons why exercise can make a dramatic difference in your quality of life.
Here are a few highlights, but go to PsyBlog for more complete information and links to the research studies.
1. Increases stress resilience—and who doesn’t need more resilience against stress? Studies on mice have shown that exercise re-organizes the brain so that it is more resistant to stress.
2. Reduces anxiety. Researchers say both low and medium intensity exercise can help protect against anxiety, but the greatest benefit comes with high intensity exercise, especially among women.
3. Lower dementia risk
A review of 130 different studies found that exercise helped prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment among participants.
4. Escape a bad mood
If you want to transform a bad mood into a good one, researchers say exercise is the most effective method.
5. Fight depression
Just as exercise fights anxiety, it also fights its close relation, depression. One review of 39 different studies found that exercise generally provides moderate relief from depression and might be as effective as starting therapy or taking anti-depressants.
6. Reduce silent strokes
Moderately vigorous exercise reduces the chance of silent strokes by 40%.
7. Alzheimer’s protection
While there still is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and no way to slow the disease once it has taken hold, there is evidence that exercise protects against Alzheimer’s by helping to produce chemicals which fight the damaging inflammation of the brain.
10. Stimulate brain cell growth
Part of the reason that exercise is beneficial in so many different mental areas is that it helps new brain cells to grow. A study on rats has shown that, in response to exercise, the brain regions related to memory and learning.
11. Increase executive function
What psychologists call ‘executive functioning’ includes all kinds of useful abilities like being able to switch tasks efficiently, ignore distractions, make plans, and so on. Reviewing many studies in this area, researchers find that exercise reliably improve executive function, especially in older adults.
12. Reduces appetite
Recent studies have found that, after exercise, people tend to eat less. (Hanlon et al., 2012). Exercise may suppress appetite by decreasing the body’s levels of ghrelin, which is a hormone that stimulates appetite.
At Daystar Retirement Village, we offer residents a variety of exercise opportunities, including Morning Stretch, Tai Chi, Indoor Volleyball and walking groups. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore, or a bore. If you exercise with friends at Daystar Retirement Village, you might just want to exercise more.