Meet our writers

 








Health January 2013

Six Hidden Benefits of Exercise

By Janice Doyle

Any type of physical activity increases the rate at which antibodies flow through the blood stream, resulting in better immunity against sickness. The increased temperature generated during moderate exercise makes it difficult for certain infectious organisms to survive.

Physically, when you find you can no longer climb stairs or walk easily from the car to the mall door, it’s time to look to exercise. Otherwise, “It’s possible to find yourself getting into a downward spiral of less and less physical activity,” writes Dr. Miriam Stoppard in her book Defying Age.

The benefits of exercise go far beyond how your clothes fit and keeping major diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease at bay. These six hidden benefits of exercise go a long way toward keeping your body, mind and spirit younger longer.

With regular physical exercise, you will:

  1. Look good! Exercise produces younger looking, more blemish-free skin: “The increase in circulation and perspiration that occurs with exercise delivers more nutrients to your skin while allowing impurities and waste to be removed,” says Dr. Eudene Harry, author of Live Younger in 8 Simple Steps. “The result? A healthier complexion!”
  2. Feel great! Physical activity releases endorphins, the brain chemicals that boost your mood and make you feel happy. They relieve stress and enhance your self-esteem and self-confidence. Exercise has also been shown to increase neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which give the body a natural high and allow us to sleep better.
    Any type of physical activity increases the rate at which antibodies flow through the blood stream, resulting in better immunity against sickness. The increased temperature generated during moderate exercise makes it difficult for certain infectious organisms to survive.
  3. Eat well! Exercise controls your appetite, according to Dr. Stoppard. We have an appestat in our brains which is a switch telling us we’re full and should stop eating. Exercise turns it on (stop eating!).
    Another effect of exercise is that your muscles tell the brain what they need — and it won’t be fat and sugar. Rather, burning calories will send you toward vitamin-rich fruits and veggies and complex carbs.
  4. Think clearly! Scientists believe that exercise is good for the brain by enhancing the heart’s function which means there’s a richer supply of blood for your memory and mental function.
  5. Stand tall! In your 20s you stood erect; in your 60s if you stand tall, straighten your shoulders and hold your head up, you can take ten years off your age because back, neck, abdominal and pelvic muscles are toned and strong. Dr. Stoddard also says that erect posture is protection against developing backache, digestive problems and heart disease. An erect spine means lungs work more efficiently and the feet are steadier.
    Just like your mother told you, stand up straight.
  6. Be constipated? Heavens, no! Exercise increases the contractions of the wall of the intestine, helping to move things along through the intestinal tract more easily, and decreasing the time it takes to pass through the large intestine.

Dr. Harry advises waiting an hour or two after eating before exerting yourself since exercising too soon after a meal can divert blood flow away from the gut and toward the muscles, weakening peristaltic contractions (and slowing down the digestion process).

Dr. Harry includes the usual caveat for exercising: Talk to your doctor and do not overdo exercising or you won’t see all of these benefits. And research shows that asking a friend to join you in an exercise program increases socialization, a key factor in overall well-being and feelings of optimism.

 

Meet Janice