Body, mind, and spirit. In order for us to fully understand the human body and ourselves, we mustn’t disconnect them. They are all very important parts of one system that is the vessel in which we experience the world.
The previous editions of this series included information on exercise and how it can positively influence both the mental and emotional side of things. There is much more than that to exercise, though. And that’s why we’re here today.
A large percentage of us may see the mental and emotional benefits of exercise as an added bonus. After all, what’s the point of exercise if it isn’t going to help us function better while making us look better? Aren’t we all wanting to improve something about our bodies?
Well, it’s a good thing you’re using exercise to do so. Here are a few of my favorite ways exercise positively benefits our physical structure, performance, and appearance.
Benefit #1: Improved Resting Metabolic Rate
If you’re not in the loop on fat loss, here’s how it works on the simplest level. You need to burn more calories than you consume in the day. That is layman’s terms for the law of thermodynamics. If you are consuming more energy (calories) than you are expending during the day, you will not lose weight - I must note that it IS possible to lose body fat while eating more than you burn during the day, as long as you are sending a signal to your body to build muscle and strength. Unfortunately, calories in versus calories out can get complicated quick as there are many factors that play a role such as hormones, genetics, epigenetics, movement, nutrition, metabolic rate, and more.
According to what we currently know about the human body and the human metabolism, the amount of muscle tissue that we carry plays a large role in the amount of calories we burn at rest. The more muscle we carry, the more energy we burn automatically. You see, more muscle (even a few pounds) can speed up our metabolism. In the context of modern life, living relatively sedentary lifestyles, this is ideal.
After all, who wants to have to do vigorous exercise more and more and more just to prevent weight gain when they can strength-train and improve their automatic calorie burn?
Benefit #2: Reduced Risk of Chronic Disease
Unfortunately, chronic diseases are controlling many of our lives, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. We can thank processed foods and sedentary lifestyles for this.
Exercising regularly has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic disease. I would like to specifically point out insulin sensitivity. Type II diabetes seems to be taking more and more people by the minute. If you’re not quite familiar, type II diabetes comes about when one gets to a point of health where their body stops responding to insulin, and blood glucose isn’t able to be shuttled to cells. There is certainly a genetic component related to type II diabetes, but it is quite apparent that a large majority of type II diabetics are overweight. This makes sense, as excess fat makes it harder and harder for cells to respond to insulin.
If you have a type II diabetes in your family, it may be time to start exercising regularly. After all, your health is like an investment account with compound interest. The work you put in now will pay off ten-fold down the road.
Benefit #3: Exercise Promotes Better Sleep
Before I continue, it must be noted that those with chronically elevated cortisol due to excess stress may not see the direct benefits here. No matter where you’re at, managing stress is a must when it comes to your short and long-term health.
Anyway, regular exercise has also been shown to promote better sleep quality. The human body regulates a constant flow of ups and downs in many of its systems. This seems to be true with sleep as well.
Research shows that regular exercise depletes energy levels, setting up an opportunity for the parasympathetic nervous system (which is in charge of rest and digest) to do its job at an optimal level.
It is important to note that exercising too hard too often is a sure way to wreck your sleep. You’ll know you’re overtraining when it gets harder and harder for you to sleep. Point is, have balance. Train hard, and rest hard. Eliminate stress as often as you can. Your body knows what to do.
ABOUT THE AUTHORAdam is a fitness professional, baseball fan, and cookie fanatic based in Fort Collins, Colorado. After hanging up the cleats, he found a strong interest in the human body and how it performs. Since then, Adam has been transforming lives through fitness in a fun and encouraging atmosphere. As an ACE CPT and Fitness Nutrition Specialist, he is constantly moved to help people improve in all walks of life.