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There are big benefits and rewards to exercising

Red Deer columnist Jack Wheeler details advantages to active lifestyle

Exercise provides big rewards. Your efforts are not in vain.

The only reason you’re exercising may be to lose weight, but you’ll gain a lot more benefits along the way which in turn, I hope, become your new goals and objectives besides just weight loss. People who aren’t physically active are missing out, and their health condition is proof – or it will be soon enough.

Don’t neglect the exercise component of a healthy lifestyle.

It’s well worth the early mornings, the ‘drag your butt to the gym after work self-talks’, the sweat and the gym membership fees.

If you have a hard time believing the many good things exercise provides, just listen to scientific fact. Here’s what’s proven.

Weight control – yes, the main reason people exercise is to lose or maintain their weight. Physical activity of any kind burns calories, the energy found in food. Eat more calories than you burn through exercise and daily life, and you’ll gain weight. Regular exercise, along with a balanced diet, is the key to managing a healthy weight. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on four days a week.

Good for your heart – it’s no secret that exercise is beneficial for your heart. One of the leading causes of death, heart disease can be largely prevented through physical activity. Getting your heart rate elevated through exercise lowers blood pressure, boosts good cholesterol, and keeps blood flowing smoothly through your circulatory system. A few hours a week of exercise will drastically reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack.

Strengthens bones – your bones are another recipient of the benefits of exercise. Weight-bearing exercise like walking, running, or dancing are particularly helpful for strengthening your bones and preventing the loss of bone mass as you age, two important aspects of preventing osteoporosis.

Other health benefits – besides lowering your risk for heart disease and osteoporosis, exercise is known to prevent or help manage numerous other health conditions including diabetes (on the rise), breast and colon cancer, metabolic syndrome (on the rise big time), arthritis and depression (on the rise).

Increases energy – feeling dragged out and tired all the time? Get up and move! Exercise gets your heart pumping and your breathing elevated which makes sure adequate oxygen is delivered to your cells. When your heart and lungs are in better shape, you have more endurance and energy to do everyday activities without feeling winded.

Boosts mood – irritable, moody, depressed or stressed? Forget counseling and medication, because exercise may be all the remedy you need. When you’re active, your brain produces chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine that help relax you and improve your emotional well-being.

A good workout does wonders at relieving pent up stress and can be as effective at treating depression as medication. The weight loss from exercise is an added bonus for improving your self-esteem and brightening your day.

Improves sleep – when done early in the day, exercise is proven to help you sleep better at night by strengthening your circadian rhythms. After your body’s gotten a good workout, your stress level is lower and tension is relieved, so you can fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply. But don’t expect results overnight. It can take a few months of regular exercise to see your sleep improve.

Supports brain health – lower your risk of age-related memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by exercising a few days a week. When you’re active, the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches your brain increases. This means healthier brain cells, new brain cells and stronger nerve connections that foster learning and memory.

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.