These Are The Seriously Overlooked Benefits Of Working Out

Photo: @shauna_harrison

Getting in shape has become virtually synonymous with "carve the body into a given physical ideal." We glorify the six-pack, celebrate the bikini body, and are on this hamster wheel chasing aesthetic greatness. Having been part of the fitness industry for 22 years, I am well aware that, from a marketing standpoint, the six-packs, bikini bodies, and booty-lifting appeal affect people's desires, in terms of imagery as much as verbiage.

I do think that as an industry, though, we have a responsibility to direct the conversation and tell the whole story. Yes, a beautiful body is sexy. But do you know what else is sexy? Living longer. Living fully. Living at our maximum physical and cognitive function. Living at our greatest potential for as long as possible. And none of these things require a sculpted physique to achieve. They can, however, be achieved with regular and consistent physical activity.

The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recently released its annual scientific report of the most current evidence about the disease prevention and health promotion benefits of physical activity. Ten more years of research has given further evidence to the breadth of health benefits that can be attributed to physical activity.

Here's a snapshot of the easily overlooked benefits of working out.

Quality of sleep

Quality of sleep has been linked numerous times to workout patterns, meaning a number of things like deeper and longer sleep cycles have been attributed to greater amounts of moderate to vigorous physical activity. And this applies to those who have sleep-related disorders and those who do not. Many of these benefits can happen almost immediately.

Improved daily activity

Increased physical activity leads to improved physical function across all ages. Those who engage in more physical activity are able to perform daily tasks more easily, and in older populations this also slows the loss of age-related physical function. In other words, you can move better for longer.

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Enhanced brain function

Executive function refers to the processes of the brain needed to concentrate and pay attention, often broken down into inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Some examples of this process include things such as organization, planning, reasoning, self-monitoring, and controlling emotions. Even a single bout of physical activity can improve your executive function for a period of time. Plus, exercise helps reduce stress levels, which makes for a happy and healthy brain.

Manage mental health

Regular exercise has been said to help reduce depression and anxiety levels—even pregnant women who are more physically active have less risk of postpartum depression as well. Some of these benefits happen almost immediately.

Reduce risk of all-cause mortality

You can decrease your chance of all-cause mortality even with the slightest increase in physical activity. This is even more important if you tend to lead a more sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, consistent exercise can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular mortality and mortality from colorectal cancer, breast cancer, or prostate cancer. For those who already have a chronic condition, exercise may also help with symptoms and chronic conditions.

Even small bouts of activity of any length of time count in a daily accumulated total of activity and contribute to these myriad benefits. Moving your body is incredibly important for your health and even more beneficial when you enjoy doing so. As studies have shown, those who are physically active sleep better, feel better, function better—and ultimately, lead happier and more fulfilled lives.

Here's why small incremental changes to your day make all the difference.

And are you ready to learn more about how brain health and your diet are intimately connected? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.

Shauna Harrison

Ph.D. & Movement Advocate
Shauna Harrison, Ph.D., is a self-proclaimed nerd, hip-hop head, jock, and yogi. Teaching fitness was a side gig for Shauna while she attended Stanford, UCLA, and Johns Hopkins. Twenty years, three graduate degrees, and multiple brand partnerships later, she is now a full-time movement advocate. She is a TRX® ambassador; creator of Muscle & Flow, #SWEATADAY, and Hip Hop Cycle®; and is also the creative director and a lifestyle athlete for Zenrez.
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Shauna Harrison

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