Walking Boosts Brainpower + 4 Other Reasons To Exercise Every Day

Written by Jessica Walters

As a NASM-certified personal trainer, I've heard every client excuse under the sun. (And as a life-long exerciser, I've used over half of them myself!) There's no getting around it: Sometimes working out is just hard. However, scientific research provides plenty of motivation for hesitant clients (and even exhausted trainers!).

Here are five science-based reminders why exercising may be the most important thing any of us all do all day:

1. Walking is linked to brain growth.

A 2010 study found that older adults who walked for 40 minutes three times a week for one year had brain growth in the hippocampus — an area of the brain associated with spatial memory. As study author, Arthur Kramer, notes this data suggests that "even individuals with very low levels of fitness and individuals in their 60s to 80s can still show benefits in terms of brain health and cognitive health."

2. Exercise increases energy.

A 2006 review of 70 studies found that chronic exercise programs are associated with an increase in energy and a decrease in feelings of fatigue that are "large enough to be clinically important." Research has since supported this claim, including a 2010 cycling study that found that acute exercise improves energy in people who report persistent fatigue.

3. Exercise may work better than antidepressants.

A 1999 study assigned 156 moderately depressed men and women to an exercise, medication (Zoloft), or exercise and medication group. Results showed that while medication worked more quickly to reduce symptoms of depression, there were no significant differences among treatment groups at 16 weeks. However, most interestingly: A 10-month follow-up revealed that exercise group members had significantly lower rates of depression than those in the medication or the combination groups! Regular exercise involvement at 10 months was also a significant predictor of lower rates of depression.

4. Exercise prevents against premature death.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it has been estimated that people who are physically active for approximately seven hours a week have a 40% lower risk of premature death than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.

Likewise, a 2013 meta-epidemiological study found that exercise was "significantly more effective" than medication in reducing odds of mortality among patients with stroke.

5. Physical inactivity is twice as deadly as obesity.

In January 2015, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a groundbreaking study finding that the risk of premature death due to lack of exercise is twice that posed by obesity. Perhaps most exciting: Researchers found that inactive individuals could reduce their risk of early death by 16-30% just by burning 90-110 extra calories a day (the equivalent of a 20-minute brisk walk)!

So whether you're a personal trainer, personal training client or just somebody excited about beginning a new fitness journey, remember these studies and stay committed! Exercise is about so much more than just looking good. (Even though that part's fun too!)

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