7 body benefits of exercise (and a hot bod ain’t one)

Wednesday 23 September 2015
  • Lego man pumping weights

OK, so we all know working out can make you look good. 

I mean, who doesn’t want a bangin’ beach bod with minimal wobbly bits?

But what about all the other benefits of exercise? The stuff we forget about, the stuff that makes us look and feel good on the inside. Like how…

  • It helps you sleep better;
  • Gives you more energy;
  • Is a massive stress reliever;
  • Plays a vital role in lowering cholesterol;
  • And even how it’s one of the top doc-recommended ways to treat depression. 

The list is pretty darn long and it doesn’t end there.

So while most of us may workout for aesthetic reasons, there’s a lot of inner body benefits – physical and mental – that are worth working out for too.

Here’s some of the top contenders… 

1. Brain

Brain meme

Want to be an A grade student? 

Just 20 minutes of exercise can immediately boost your concentration and improve mental function. A great tip if you want to get those brain cells firing just before an exam.

Work before play, nahhh, exercise before study we say!

2. Heart

Heart meme

Your heart needs a workout just as much as the rest of you.

To get the most out of your cardio workouts, aim for a heart rate range anywhere from 50% (moderate intensity) to 85% (high intensity) of your maximum heart rate (MHR = approx. 220 minus your age). 

The longer you can go at the higher end of your heart rate range, the healthier your heart. 

Get that baby beatin’!

3. Muscle

Muscle meme

No we’re not talking about bulking up or slimming down – it’s about how to more effectively burn those pesky little balls of excess energy (a.k.a. calories).

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) – that’s the calories your body uses to keep things functioning – is based on lots of different factors like your gender, your age, your size, etc. 

Another big contributor is your lean muscle mass. For every kilo of muscle you have, your body will burn about an extra 12 calories a day. Whereas a kilo of fat, will only burn about 5 calories. 

So there’s not actually a massive difference between the two (more on that in this interesting article), but muscle has heaps of other benefits too, such as a reduced risk of injuring yourself when exercising. Plus you’ll burn a bunch of extra calories when you’re weightlifting and building that muscle.

Pretty sure muscle is the clear winner here.

4. Lungs

Lung meme

Your body needs up to 15 times more oxygen during exercise, depending on how hard you work. And your breathing style will differ depending on what workout you’re doing.

For cardio, it’s suggested that diaphragmatic breathing or ‘belly’ breathing will help you take deeper, fuller breaths to help meet your oxygen needs during intense exercise.

Pushing your lungs to the limit, or reaching your maximum volume for oxygen use, is called your VO2 max

The higher your VO2 max, the fitter you are. Want to test your VO2 max? Find out more here.

5. Mood

Mood meme

Exercise gives you an instant hit of ‘happy’ chemicals

The big 4 are: endorphins (the euphoric ‘runner’s high’ chemical), dopamine (the ‘I did it!’ chemical), oxytocin (the ‘bonding’ chemical – if you’re working out with a buddy that is) and serotonin (the ‘confidence-boosting’ chemical).

Unfortunately though, they don’t stop your workout for hurting the day after. You’ll just have to deal… but it’s totally worth it…. we promise!

6. Bones

Bone meme

Don’t forget about your bones! 

Exercise helps keep your bones strong and protects against loss of bone density (a.k.a osteoporosis) as you get older. You may be fit and healthy now, but better to do the preventative stuff sooner rather than later, right?

To make sure you’re looking after them, aim to do at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises and resistance training 4 to 6 times a week

7. Weight

Scales meme

And finally, weight control. 

Weight isn’t just about what you look like but can also be a self-esteem and body confidence issue. 

To others you may have an awesome body, but if you’re not happy with it, then that could be a problem.

Studies suggest that 30 minutes of daily exercise will help maintain your weight but it’s 60 minutes (or more) a day that’ll help you lose weight if that’s your goal. Unfortunately that means cutting out the junk food too (soz). 

At the other end of the spectrum, if you want to gain weight, always do it in a healthy way. Eat the right stuff and stick to a suitable workout plan. Speaking to a doctor and recruiting the help of a PT is always a good starting point.

If you want to see change, make change.

So next time you hit the gym, pool, pitch, etc, don’t just do it for a fitter looking physique. Do it for the rest of you too.

 

Amy Cox

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AMY COX
Amy is UQ Sport’s resident blogger. She’s a peanut-butter loving Brit, who exercises to eat whatever she wants. You’ll find Amy either in the gym, playing badminton or doing the wrong moves in group fitness classes.