How Do I Benefit From an Active Lifestyle?

By Justin Bennett

One of the most common resolutions is to become more active or improve physical fitness, but sometimes those resolutions lose momentum and you find yourself forgetting what your resolution was to begin with. Getting active is an important goal to have not only year-round, but your entire life, as it improves large areas of your life and impacts you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Physical Benefits

The most obvious physical benefit of getting active is controlling your weight. You gain weight when the calories you burn are less than the calories you eat and drink. Exercise is a great way to burn calories and reduce the risk of obesity-related complications such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and abnormal cholesterol levels. The best approach to weight loss is one that includes a commitment to cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, and caloric restriction. Strive for 200 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity over a week-long period, which is the equivalent of expending 2,000 calories per week. Keep in mind that the amount of exercise needed to lose or maintain weight varies from person to person, so consult with your doctor or a personal trainer to come up with a plan tailored specifically to you.

Exercise not only affects your outward appearance, but it has positive impacts on your bones and muscles. As you age, it is important to protect your bones, joints, and muscles, as they support your body and enable you to carry out daily activities. Regular physical activity can slow the loss of bone density that often comes with age, and help with joint-conditions such as arthritis by improving muscle strength, joint mobility, and pain management.

Mental Boosts to Stress Less

Although the direct link between anxiety, depression, and exercise arenít clear, regular exercise and nutrition have been proven to ease the symptoms of anxiety, depression and even addiction. Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, endorphins, and endocannabinoids, and reduces immune system chemicals that can aggravate or worsen depression. Exercise is often prescribed to treat nervous tension, as it decreases the electrical activity of tensed muscles and leaves you feeling less jittery and hyperactive after a sweat session.

Getting active has psychological benefits too, helping you to take your mind off the areas in your life that are causing you stress and distract you from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed your anxiety and depression. Think of exercise as a healthy coping mechanism. According to research, exercise can be used as tool for treating and preventing anxiety, or the fight-or-flight response. Researchers speculate that regular physical activity can help those prone to anxiety become less likely to panic when they experience fight-or-flight sensations since the body produces some of the same symptoms in response to exercise. The theory was tested on 60 subjects with anxiety, and found that after a two-week exercise program, the subjectís anxiety sensitivity was significantly improved.

Emotional Effect on Mood

Busy schedules and constant daily stress can put a damper on your mood and lead to other issues such as poor work performance, relationship struggles, or a change in your personality. Exercise has been shown to help with depression and anxiety, but sometimes you just have a bad day and need to relax. Although you may be tempted to unwind with a bubble bath, the same feel-good brain chemicals that reduce anxiety can lift your spirits and help you to clear your mind of the stresses of the day. Exercise can also improve your confidence, promote weight loss, improve sleep, and serve as a coping mechanism for stress, all of which point to a positive mood. Research has shown that regular exercise positively impacts mood, makes you feel good, and can help with various mood states such as anger, tension, or vigor. Find physical activity that makes you feel good, such as yoga, running outdoors, or playing a game of tug-of-war with your dog and enjoy the mood boost.

Improving physical activity is a resolution everyone should consider to improve your body and mind physically, mentally, and emotionally. Find what you enjoy and let the benefits roll in.