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What are the scientific benefits of exercising on things like your mental health or energy levels? In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the researched benefits, as well as how to implement some healthy and sustainable exercises into your daily routine.
Any function of your body, no matter how large or small, is better when you are physically active. And, the overall mindset that I would love for you to take with you is not that exercise is “building up” your body from a baseline perspective.
Instead, exercise allows our body to work at a baseline level of functionality. Exercise isn’t what gives us a boost on top of what we already have going on, but a lack of exercise prevents us from working normally, to begin with!
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The Biggest Benefits of Exercising
Let’s start by touching on some of the biggest benefits of exercise. Exercise can help reduce the risk of many diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- And more…
Exercise does all of this while also helping boost our lifespan and our healthspan. You may already know the terms, but lifespan refers to the number of years we progressively add onto our lives (how long we live, on average and in general).
A term you may not be as familiar with is healthspan. This is a term that seeks to describe the impact we can have throughout our years. It is essentially how we make the most of our collective years, for example how mobile and stronger we are as we age.
And, exercise can have a positive impact on each. The cherry on top is that it is also free and it is even easier than taking prescription medications. A bit more on that as we dive deeper…
How Does Exercise Increase Energy?
Let’s continue along with one of today’s big questions: How does exercise increase energy?
The idea here is that, when you are exercising, you are challenging your body to create more energy to meet your demands. There is a concept called “hormesis” – when something is challenging, but not overwhelming, it may induce a healthy change.
Key Insight: If you challenge your body, in a healthy way, it can help your body become stronger and bounce back faster than before.
If we take this principle, we can begin to understand that movement requires a great deal of energy. So, if we increase the amount we move, we can progressively become stronger as our body demands energy to facilitate that movement. It just keeps on building!
The flip side is also true: The less physically active we are and the less we move, the less effective our bodies become at generating energy and burning fuel effectively. This also makes us more susceptible to disease.
So, how does the body do this? There are four main ones at play:
- Glycolysis – Breaking apart sugar for energy.
- Aerobic respiration – Breaking down glucose with oxygen.
- Beta oxidation – The breakdown of fatty acids.
- Burning ketone bodies – Burning ketones for fuel.
During most forms of exercise, we use all of these. And, exercise makes you better at all of the energy-burning pathways listed above.
Key Insight: Don’t forget the concept of “effect size.” Exercise can not only help you increase your energy at the moment, but it can also help create the things that have an exponential effect on your ability to produce energy.
Exercise has a positive effect on your energy levels by doing the following:
- Increasing your amount of mitochondria
- Improved capillary density
- Greater cardiorespiratory fitness
- Increased oxygen uptake
- More muscular density
- Optimized glut 4 receptors
All of this shows how you can get your body to work normally, and then build from there. Physiologically speaking, this is what your body would consider “normal.”
Sedentary Lifestyles as the Alternative
On the other hand, the other side of activity is inactivity. The useful thing here is to think about how you can break up extended periods of inactivity.
Key Insight: A good rule of thumb is 45-50 minutes. If you are sitting for longer than that, your body begins to suffer. So, you need to get up and do something – you simply can’t sit still for that long.
So, don’t only think about it in terms of ratcheting up your exercise schedule and then sitting the rest of the day. Instead, how you can break up the day with consistent activity.
Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health
The benefits of exercise on mental health are super clear. The relationship between exercise and the brain is so important, as it can boost self-esteem, cognitive function, our stress response and so much more. They are all better with exercise.
In terms of general types of exercise most relevant to cognitive function, specifically, it seems that aerobic exercise is the most relevant. That said, all types of exercise are good, but which combination is the best?
If you are going to do one thing only, though, aerobic exercise is a good bet. This would involve spending 30-60 minutes per session this style of exercise (at a moderate intensity).
Key Insight: You can find the complete list in the Thyroid Reset Diet. Or, you can simply click the following link to access a full list.
Encouraging Exercise for Any Age Group
Personally speaking, I love a wide repertoire of activities. You can run and jog, swim and bike, or use various aerobic machines. Skiing, hiking… the options are endless!
My recommendation would be to find one or two that you absolutely love or that work really well for you – and then a couple “bonus” options to sprinkle in every now and again.
All that in mind, think about every day as a day for some kind of exercise (whether it’s a little or a lot). Benefits begin to emerge with around 4-5 days a week of exercise.
If you make exercise your daily ritual, you can really commit to doing it for the long-term (rather than letting “break days” pile up).
Once you have that, I would also recommend adding in a regimen of strength training. This can help your “grip strength” which has numerous studied health outcomes.
Now that we have some ideas top of mind, let’s talk about some more general guidelines when it comes to exercise for energy. I’d break it down into two prevailing categories:
- Body Weight Callisthenics
As I mentioned before, walking can form the key part of an aerobic workout. The things to focus on here would be the overall distance you walk, the pace at which you walk and also the average incline – each of these can challenge you in unique ways.
When it comes to body weight calisthenics, it helps to focus on three types of exercise: push, pull, and core workouts. These essentially are the three ways that we move, so focusing on them can make for a great mix.
Key Insight: The easiest thing, for me, is to do a full body session at least twice a week. The other option is training more often with fewer motions.
First, we had a variety of exercises. Then, we followed that with some more targeted initiatives. But, the last “step” here would be to go back to the start – by focusing on stretching.
Forward bending, back bending, rotations, and hip motions. While they seem basic, they are super helpful and you should also do them after any kind of exercise (and not before).
It shouldn’t take more than five minutes, but you want to do it almost every day.
Exercising for Energy Can Be Easy
Maybe you have heard about the benefits of HIIT training. While exercises like these can be helpful, there really is no replacement for a consistent and sustainable exercise regime.
Everything I have mentioned and listed above may be a challenge to kick off at first, but it can be so easy to maintain with the right mindset – and, keeping in mind the whole host of benefits that it can provide down the road.
The thing I want you to ask yourself: Are you doing this? I am sure you have heard this before somewhere, but really dig deep and question your follow-through. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that it can change your life for the better, so please consider building a training regimen today. I hope this guide helps!
P.S. Whenever you are ready, here is how I can help you now:
1. Schedule a Thyroid Second Opinion with me, Dr. C, Click Here for Details
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4. Download and use my Favorite Recipes Cookbook Here
5. Check out my podcast Medical Myths, Legends, and Fairytales Here
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet, The Metabolism Reset Diet and The Thyroid Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.