The surprising health benefits you can gain from working out

Get Fit at the Gym and Reap the Surprising Health Benefits

When most people go to the gym, they’re looking to build muscle or lose weight. But while you may think that you’re solely targeting your abs or glutes when you’re lifting weights or on the treadmill, there are plenty of benefits that extend to all parts of your health and well-being. Here are some surprising health benefits that come with working out at the gym, whether you’re targeting one body part or your entire body.

Lower risk of heart attack

Regular exercise strengthens your heart muscle, helping it pump blood with less effort. And if you’re out of shape or overweight, working out is a great way to shed pounds while building stronger muscles—no need for risky surgery.

(A recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that obese people who did high-intensity interval training dropped body fat more than those who simply followed a low-calorie diet.) In fact, according to Stanford University research presented at last year’s American College of Cardiology conference, cardiovascular exercise can even make your blood stickier, allowing it to clot less after an injury. This makes it easier for your heart to pump around any clots you have—meaning you have a lower risk of a heart attack.

Allergies are reduced

Running up a big sweat during a workout can reduce your allergy symptoms. Over time, exercise strengthens your immune system, which means you’ll be less likely to suffer from seasonal allergies. Just make sure you take it easy on the allergens before getting down to business.

Before hitting up that yoga class or cycling class, avoid touching tree pollen or petting your cat or dog. Otherwise, avoid sneezing fits by staying away from any allergens that cause you problems when exercising.

Healthy pregnancies and babies

healthy pregnancy

It may be better to work out while pregnant than not. Studies have shown that women who stay active during pregnancy tend to have healthier babies, as well as easier deliveries.

One study even found that working out helped women get their pregnancies under control and possibly prevent gestational diabetes by keeping blood sugar levels normal, helping with weight gain, keeping stress levels down, improving sleep quality, and decreasing fatigue (which can lead to fewer high-risk behaviors).

Meanwhile, prenatal exercise has also been linked to lowered risks of postpartum depression later on in life. For all these reasons, it’s a good idea for expecting moms to keep moving throughout their pregnancies. Of course, always check with your doctor before getting started with any new exercise routine.

More flexible bones

The surprising health benefits you can gain from working out

According to a 2009 study published in Osteoporosis International, adults over age 50 who exercised regularly (at least once a week) had better bone density than those who didn’t exercise. Running and jumping activities, like basketball and tennis, improve flexibility in muscles and tendons—and therefore also boost bone strength.

At age 65, healthy people with at least three-days-per-week exercise were less likely to develop osteoporosis than non-exercisers.

Men should aim for about two hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like brisk walking or cycling; women should get one hour per week. Bonus: Increased flexibility can improve your workout by reducing your risk of injury and boosting your performance while you work out! So stretch away!

Stronger immunity against colds and flu

Exercising regularly can help strengthen your immune system, which means you’re less likely to get sick. When we exercise, our muscles produce hormones called endorphins that make us feel happier and stronger. Scientists believe these feel-good hormones may also boost our immune systems by stimulating certain parts of our brains.

In one study, 12 weeks of aerobic exercise training increased T-cells (white blood cells that help fight infections) and natural killer cells (immune system cells that identify and destroy tumor cells). This is important because as we age, some immunity functions diminish, leaving us more susceptible to infection or disease. When in doubt about what’s making you sick: Exercise!

Better quality sleep

In a study published in Sleep and Biological Rhythms, researchers found that adults who were fit were more likely to enjoy more sleep and fall asleep faster. That’s because physical activity helps produce certain hormones that regulate sleep and also help reduce stress, which often interferes with healthy rest.

Not only do you get a better sleep when you exercise regularly, but studies have also shown that people who exercise at least 30 minutes per day enjoy deeper REM sleep as well. The bottom line: Being physically active has been proven time and again to improve the quality of sleep. Why should you care? A good night’s rest is essential for both your physical and mental health!

Less stress, more energy, fewer migraines

If you’re like most people, you go to gyms for one reason: weight loss. But once there, it turns out exercise has plenty of other benefits. It can increase energy levels and lower stress levels. Plus, more workouts could actually help prevent migraines. In fact, recent research says those who work out regularly have fewer headaches than those who don’t get physical at all.

Fights Depression

If you’re feeling down, depressed, or even anxious, it may be time to get in shape. Regular exercise is proven to help alleviate symptoms of depression. In fact, studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day can provide relief for mild depression symptoms.

Other research has shown that people with clinical depression who participated in a regular exercise program experienced remission at rates nearly twice as high compared with their non-exercising counterparts (in which approximately half still suffered from mild symptoms).

These numbers aren’t likely coincidental; many experts believe there’s a strong link between physical activity and improved mood and mental health.

Improve your sex life

We’re talking about your cardiovascular health, not just how many push-ups you can do. A study from The University of Texas found that exercise in a hot environment caused test subjects to experience an increase in sexual activity compared with people who had remained sedentary.

The reason for these results is simple: Regular exercise increases blood flow and promotes a healthy sex life. So, throw those workout clothes on and get pumped—you may be getting more action than you expected.

Working out on an empty stomach burns more fat

One study published in Metabolism showed that when subjects completed a high-intensity workout on an empty stomach, they burned far more fat than when they exercised after eating breakfast.

The researchers concluded that working out on an empty stomach helps boost weight loss because it creates higher levels of fat utilization during exercise and, in turn, burns off more calories overall. If you normally eat breakfast, try taking a fasted cardio session instead and see how your body responds! Working out on an empty stomach at least three times per week can help with weight loss.

If you don’t have time for a full workout but want to squeeze in some movement throughout your day, walking around every 30 minutes is another way to increase your daily calorie burn and give yourself some extra energy.

Often Asked Questions

(Q;) Are those with gym memberships healthier than those without?

(A;) A 2015 study published in Preventive Medicine found that those with gym memberships are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines, compared with non-members.

Another study published in Social Science and Medicine showed that having a gym membership was associated with a significant decrease in diabetes risk.

One explanation for these findings is normative social influence. In other words, people are much more likely to stick with their exercise routine if they have made it public knowledge that they have one. It’s easier for people who see you working out regularly at the gym to hold you accountable for your fitness goals than it is for them if you’re exercising by yourself at home.

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