by Rachel Mayan
After my competitive swimming career ended, I stopped exercising altogether. Swimming was all I had ever known in the realm of working out, and I was sick of it after so long, so I embraced the couch and the TV with a huge sigh of relief. A year and a half later after no exercise, I was 15 pounds up, had lost the muscle strength I had previously taken pride in, and I was tired all the time. Realizing I needed to make a change, I started exercising again, and I will never look back. Why? Because working out gave me positive results, and quick. Here are just a few of the immediate benefits I discovered as I got back into an active lifestyle that you can experience, too.
Exercise gives you a built-in achievement for that day: you’ve already accomplished something by pushing yourself, stepping outside of “comfortable,” running that extra mile, or doing ten more push-ups when you thought you couldn’t, and that momentum extends into other areas of your life. As you start to look better and feel better, you start to believe in possibilities and positive outcomes and start to adopt a “why not” attitude.
When we engage in exercise, we give our bodies a trial run to practice coping with stress. According to the American Psychological Association, we force our bodies’ physiological systems (i.e. the cardiovascular, muscular, and nervous systems) – which are all involved in responding to stress – to work more closely during exercise. Working out conditions our bodies to be more efficient in dealing with everyday stress, making us less ruffled and more relaxed.
The National Sleep Foundation shared the results of a study on physical activity and the quality of sleep – and the news is good! Of the 2,600 people age 18-85 who engaged in 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, 65% found an improvement in sleep quality. But remember, because sleep is related to body temperature – which rises during exercise – you should give yourself about three hours between exercise and bedtime to assure a night of worthwhile zzz’s.
It’s no secret that exercise burns calories, but regular exercise can affect the way your body handles calories on a daily basis. According to WebMD, varied exercise, such as interval training, can rev up your metabolism by challenging your muscles at different levels. Strength training, too, such as lifting weights, can boost your metabolism by building muscle, which burns more calories than fat in a given day.
Making that decision every day to set time aside to exercise is the decision that you and your body are worth it, that you deserve to be healthy. Putting your physical needs first helps you remember that you are just as important as your
work and your family.
Sounds crazy, right? According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise increases your blood flow, thus increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients that get delivered to your tissues. The result is a cardiovascular system that works more efficiently, providing more ease in performing everyday tasks, like mowing the lawn or doing the laundry. Exercise often leaves you more alert, more productive, and less sleepy during the day.