8 Seldom-Mentioned Reasons To Engage In Regular Exercise (Besides To Build Bone)
The Save Institute emphasizes regular, intentional physical activity for the development of new bone and for overall health improvement. Wolff’s law has accurately described this process for more than 100 years, and we understand it better with each new scientific study which examines the relationship between exercise and bone remodeling.
But even with full knowledge of the direct cause and effect relationship between weight-bearing exercise and the development of new bone tissue, some people find it hard to muster the willpower to start a new routine. Today we’ll tip the scales by revealing eight evidence-backed, incredible benefits of exercise above and beyond its impact on your bones.
Whether this information helps you start the exercise regimen you know you need, or just adds a little more get-up-and-go into your routine, we’re sure these studies will inspire you to do your bones and your body right!
1. Exercise Prevents Cognitive Decline
The effects of aging on cognitive ability are quite frightening, and the end result can be devastating. One aspect of mental decline that has been observed in part of the aging population is the degeneration of the hippocampus. This area of the brain, critical for memory and learning, can literally shrink over time, and with it, the capacity for learning and memory can shrink too.1
It’s not inevitable though. One way you can fight back and keep your brain functioning smoothly is through exercise. Studies have shown that exercise has a variety of brain benefits:1
- Physical activity reinstates hippocampal function by enhancing the expression of growth factors.
- Physical activity counteracts age and Alzheimer’s associated declines in mitochondrial and immune system function.
- Exercise interventions can reduce the pathological features associated with Alzheimer’s.
- Exercise can work against the molecular changes that cause the progressive loss of hippocampal function during aging or Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Exercise Reduces Anxiety Sensitivity
If you’ve ever had a panic attack or suffer from a panic disorder, you know how quickly a small source of anxiety can snowball into feelings of overwhelming or paralyzing panic.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi has shown that aerobic exercise can reduce generalized anxiety and anxiety sensitivity.2 In the study, 54 participants with elevated anxiety scores engaged in either high or low-intensity exercise sessions consisting of six 20-minute sessions on a treadmill. Their self-ratings of anxiety sensitivity, fear of anxiety-associated physiological sensations, and generalized anxiety were assessed before and after the exercise, and then again during a follow-up a week later.2
The biggest reductions in anxiety sensitivity came from the high-intensity exercise, but general anxiety was lowered in both groups. Other studies have established exercise as an agent of improved psychological well-being, including reductions in anxiety and depression symptoms.3
3. Exercise Boosts Self-Confidence
Self-confidence is a powerful tool when tackling any challenge, and exercise can help you get more of it. One study followed the relationship between exercise and self-esteem in a group of 143 middle aged women over two years. The researchers found that the women increased their self-esteem (and maintained a healthy body mass index) by engaging in regular physical activity.4
It’s no surprise that when you invest time and energy into improving your health and feeling better, your self-esteem increases. Exercise is a way of investing in yourself that is scientifically proven to return valuable dividends.
4. Exercise Builds New Brain Cells
Did you know that you can create new brain cells? Exercise is known to stimulate neurogenesis, specifically in the hippocampus. Studies have shown this creates increased spatial learning in mice.5 This occurs because the physical activity increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which in turn has a positive effect on cognitive function.
In a study conducted with human participants, isolated short bouts of high-intensity cycling resulted in improved performance on a face-name matching task. A recurring routine of cycling also improved performance on this cognitive test. Here’s what the authors concluded:
“These data indicate that both acute and chronic exercise improve medial temporal lobe function concomitant with increased concentrations of BDNF in the serum, suggesting a possible functional role for this neurotrophic factor in exercise-induced cognitive enhancement in humans.”6
5. Exercise Reduces Stress
Exercise has a positive impact on stress and even prepares your body to handle future stressors better.
If you’re feeling on edge, no matter the cause, going for a walk, taking a yoga class, or working out at the gym has been shown to lower stress levels. When you engage in physical exercise, your brain produces more norepinephrine, an endorphin that reduces feelings of stress.7
In addition to relieving active feelings of anxiety, this biological response also prepares your body to respond to stress more effectively. Exercise not only strengthens your muscles and your bones to be able to handle heavier physical loads more efficiently, but it also strengthens your brain to be able to handle heavier mental and emotional loads with less stress.7
You can think of it as training your brain to handle whatever stressful events the future brings, allowing you to manage the situation with calm and clarity.
6. Exercise Improves Mood
Studies of clinically depressed people have shown that exercise can alleviate their symptoms, effectively taking the place of mood-enhancing drugs.8 This is due to the same endorphins that make exercise a good stress reliever. In place of the stress, people experience feelings of happiness or even euphoria. You may have heard of the “runner’s high.” This is the cause of that happy sensation.
If you’d like to feel a little more “up” in your day to day life, try scheduling yourself a few exercise sessions a week. Whether you’re walking, going on long hikes, or swimming, your brain chemistry will reward you with positive feelings. And all of these activities also build your bones.
7. Exercise Improves Memory
Exercise triggers the production of new brain cells in the hippocampus. Because the hippocampus is responsible for memory and learning, an increase of those cells improves your ability to learn new things and to subsequently remember them.
One way that scientists have studied this is by teaching study participants new vocabulary and examining their retention rates in relation to prescribed amounts of exercise. Researchers at the University of Muenster in Germany found that vocabulary learning was 20 percent faster after the intense physical exercise of high impact anaerobic sprints as compared to low impact aerobic running or a period of rest.9
The sprints also created the biggest increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and the catecholamines dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. The BDNF assists short-term learning, while the epinephrine improves long-term retention of the new vocabulary, and dopamine helps with intermediate-term retention.9
While that study shows the benefits of anaerobic sprints, another study demonstrated that aerobic exercise training reverses hippocampal volume loss during old age, increasing the volume of this part of the brain by 2%. That’s a reverse of one to two years of volume loss, creating an improvement in memory function and reducing the risk of dementia.10
8. Exercising Outdoors Has Bonus Benefits
Many of the above benefits are multiplied when your exercise routine takes you outside. Your self-esteem sees even larger gains if you’re taking in some greenery while you workout. And if you’re able to soak up a little sun, the additional Vitamin D your body will produce helps to improve mood and ward off the symptoms of depression.
If you normally run on a treadmill, try finding a running trail in a local park, or even jogging on a tree-lined sidewalk, weather-permitting, of course. You could also look into outdoor activities that provide exercise, like bike-riding, trail-hiking, rock-climbing, or kayaking! You don’t have to be in the deep wilderness to access these benefits though; even your backyard can offer the fresh air, greenery and sunshine that wakes up our brains and makes us feel good about ourselves.
Here’s what a scientific study from the University of Essex in the UK concluded about the benefits of exercising in nature:
“Exercise alone significantly reduced blood pressure, increased self-esteem, and had a positive significant effect on 4 of 6 mood measures. Both rural and urban pleasant scenes produced a significantly greater positive effect on self-esteem than the exercise-only control. This shows the synergistic effect of green exercise in both rural and urban environments.”11
Boost Your Brain Power And Build Your Bones
The benefits of exercise actually provide you the self-confidence, sharpened memory and positive willpower that you need to keep up a consistent habit of exercising. That just leaves you with the challenge of getting started. Getting into a routine can take some extra effort, but once you’re in the swing of it, you’ll never look back.
If you’re feeling at a loss for the best way to get moving, check out our Densercise™ Epidensity Training System. It contains a wealth of varied and easy-to-accomplish 15-minute bone-building routines that offer huge benefits. It only takes three sessions a week to start building stronger bones and reap the benefits described above, with bone-targeted weight-bearing exercises.
Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!
Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.
So if you’re not currently engaging in regular exercise, take action right away. There’s no time to lose, and so much to gain!
Till next time,
1Intlekofer KA, Cotman CW. “Exercise counteracts declining hippocampal function in aging and Alzheimer’s disease.” Neurobiol Dis. 2013 Sep;57:47-55. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22750524
2Broman-Fulks JJ, Berman ME, Rabian BA, Webster MJ. “Effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety sensitivity.” Behav Res Ther. 2004 Feb;42(2):125-36. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14975776
3Carek PJ, Laibstain SE, Carek SM. “Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety.” Int J Psychiatry Med. 2011;41(1):15-28. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21495519
4Elavsky S. “Longitudinal examination of the exercise and self-esteem model in middle-aged women.” J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2010 Dec;32(6):862-80. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21282842
5Mustroph ML, Chen S, Desai SC, Cay EB, DeYoung EK, Rhodes JS. “Aerobic exercise is the critical variable in an enriched environment that increases hippocampal neurogenesis and water maze learning in male C57BL/6J mice.” Neuroscience. 2012 Sep 6;219:62-71. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22698691
6Griffin ÉW, Mullally S, Foley C, Warmington SA, O’Mara SM, Kelly AM. “Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males.” Physiol Behav. 2011 Oct 24;104(5):934-41. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21722657
7Arent, S., Landers, M., et al (2000), “The Effects of Exercise on Mood in Older Adults: A Meta-Analytic Review.” The Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Vol.8, pp.407-430. ISSN:1063-8652. Pdf. http://ulib.derby.ac.uk/ecdu/CourseRes/dbs/currissu/Arent_S.pdf
8Lynette L. Craft, Ph.D. and Frank M. Perna. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed.” Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004; 6(3): 104–111. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/
9Winter B, Breitenstein C, Mooren FC, Voelker K, Fobker M, Lechtermann A, Krueger K, Fromme A, Korsukewitz C, Floel A, Knecht S. “High impact running improves learning.” Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2007 May;87(4):597-609. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17185007
10Erickson KI, Voss MW, Prakash RS, Basak C, Szabo A, Chaddock L, Kim JS, Heo S, Alves H, White SM, Wojcicki TR, Mailey E, Vieira VJ, Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA, McAuley E, Kramer AF. “Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011 Feb 15;108(7):3017-22. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21282661
11Pretty J, Peacock J, Sellens M, Griffin M. “The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise.” Int J Environ Health Res. 2005 Oct;15(5):319-37. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1641675