5 lesser known benefits of exercise

One of the common characteristics of people who live long well is that they move their bodies every day.

And there are many documented benefits of adopting a regular fitness routine, including decreasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Additionally, whether you want to lose weight, prevent depression or just look better, you can accomplish all of these goals and more by exercising regularly.

Exercise is beneficial for many areas of your life, extending far beyond impacting physical appearance. In fact, it can also improve your mental and emotional health.

Here are five benefits of exercise that may surprise you:

1. Improved cognitive function

Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping, boosts the area of your brain that’s involved in controlling your verbal memory and learning skills. Exercise also stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells and the growth of new blood vessels in the brain. Yes, that means that working out can help prevent dementia.

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2. Better mood

Feeling down? Exercise! In fact, exercise is a natural antidepressant. When you increase blood flow to your brain, it releases endorphins and serotonin, which are your body’s natural antidepressants. In this way, it can help improve your brain chemistry in a positive way. If you’re dreading your workout, just remember that you’ll feel much better when it’s over.

3. Improved sleep patterns

A regular workout routine can help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer and improve overall sleep quality. Studies show that exercise increases the time your body spends in deep sleep, which is the most physically restorative phase of sleep. Deep sleep helps boost immune function, supports cardiac health, and controls stress and anxiety.

4. Reduced stress and anxiety

Increasing your heart rate releases tension in your body and helps your body cope with outside stress factors. Science has also shown that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety.

5. More energy

The endorphins that exercise releases also help you feel more energized and alert. Think of it as a natural caffeine boost.

There are many ways to incorporate exercise into your daily life. You don’t have to commit to a gym membership or a personal trainer. You can start by taking a 30-minute walk every day to see the benefits of regular exercise.

And it doesn’t matter what you do — ANY extra activity is good. So, take the stairs instead of the escalator. Park a little farther from a store’s entry. Take up a new hobby that involves some motion — like dancing or bowling.

You’ll feel better, look better and your overall health will improve. And you’ll live well longer. All positive changes that you can feel good about.

For more easy tips on living better, visit Step One Foods.

Dr. Elizabeth Klodas MD, FACC

By Dr. Elizabeth Klodas MD, FACC

"Diet is a major driver of high cholesterol, but instead of changing the food, we prescribe medications. This never seemed logical to me.” Dr. Klodas has dedicated her career to preventive cardiology. Trained at Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, she is the founder and Chief Medical Officer for Step One Foods. Dr. Klodas is a nationally sought out speaker and has an active role at the American College of Cardiology. Her clinical interests include prevention of heart disease and non-invasive cardiac imaging and she has published dozens of scientific articles throughout her career. Dr. Klodas has been featured on CNN Health for her mission to change how heart disease is treated. An independent study performed at leading medical institutions affirmed the ability of Step One Foods to deliver measurable and meaningful cholesterol-reduction benefits in the real world. The results of the trial were presented at the 2018 American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. Dr. Klodas has also authored a book for patients, "Slay the Giant: The Power of Prevention in Defeating Heart Disease," and served as founding Editor-in-Chief of the patient education effort of the American College of Cardiology. In addition to her practice and her duties at Step One Foods, she also serves as medical editor for webMD.