We all know that physical activity is critical for staying healthy, and we tend to think of exercise as something we must do to lose weight. Physical activity and a whole foods diet with moderate portions is definitely the magic formula for losing weight, but let's talk about some of the other significant benefits of exercise.
1. Boosts Immune System: Exercise increases immune function, reducing incidents of colds and flus, BUT too much actually suppresses the immune system. So where is the sweet spot? Studies have shown that longer workouts (1.5 hours or more) can suppress the immune system for a short period of time. If you can keep the workouts short and intense and definitely don't be afraid to take some days off, your immune system will thank you. If you're training for a marathon and you're doing some seriously long runs just be sure to refuel properly and allow for recovery to support your immune system.
2. Decrease Anxiety and Depression: Exercise creates new, excitable neurons along with new neurons designed to release the GABA neurotransmitter, which helps to induce a natural state of calm. Exercise also boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. This rush of brain chemicals into the body is why we feel the "runners high" after a good workout. So what's the best form of exercise to releive stress? I think this is up to the person. Bottom line here is find something that feels good to you. Yoga, running, strength training, dancing.....find the medicine that works for you, there is no right or wrong.
3. Improve Quality of Sleep: One of the most common statements I hear from new clients is how great they sleep after their workouts. After a good workout you will tend to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. Exercising regularly also helps ease stress, anxiety and depression—all problems that can interfere with getting a restful night’s sleep. The sleep-exercise connection goes both ways: When you get enough sleep, you’re more likely to feel motivated to exercise the next day. One thing to keep in mind is when you exercise. Part of the reason we sleep better after a workout has to do with body temperature. Our body temperature goes up when we exercise and the drop in temperature is what gives us that relaxed feeling. Sometimes that can take 4-5 hours, so best to workout 4-6 hours before bed. If that can't happen, it's not the end of the world, just try to keep workouts at least 2 hours away from bed time so you're not wide awake.