Everybody has down days — those times when you have to strain get work done, when you are sour and gloomy, when you just feel weak, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Usually, when you feel down, the last thing you feel like doing is getting up and getting active. However, research shows that working toward a healthy lifestyle is exactly the cure for most cases of doldrums.
As if you needed any more evidence that you should start exercising and eating right, here are six reasons why you should get out of bed and use those yoga pants for their intended activity.
1. Healthy People Are Actually Smarter
As much as we want to believe that bodybuilders are just meaty blockheads, it turns out that training muscles also helps train the brain. When you exercise, you improve your brain’s ability to create and recall memories, to solve problems, and to read and learn faster. Plus, those who exercise seem to be at a lower risk of developing cognitive-related issues later in life, like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
2. Working Out Is a Natural Anti-depressant
Those diagnosed with depression will tell you that doctors are unlikely to do more than advocate therapy and prescribe medications. While there is no sure-fire way to cure for depression in everyone, some research suggests that aerobic exercise can be as effective as drugs at raising serotonin levels and improving mood.
One study, which compared a group of depressive patients taking medication to a group of depressive patients enduring aerobic exercise (including jogging, dancing, cycling, swimming, and more), found that after a few months, between 60 and 70 percent of the latter group failed to show any signs of depression, and a few months later, they were healthier than the medicated group.
Of course, this study doesn’t insinuate exercise should be a singular antidote to major depression; rather, you might combine regular exercise with other doctor-approved treatment — and perhaps some simple pleasures, like drinking damiana tea in the evenings.
3. Exercise Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety have real physical impacts on the body. When you are stressed and anxious, you can probably feel your shoulder and neck muscles tensing, your stomach acids burning your throat, and your eyes turning gritty from lack of sleep. Often, these feelings cause you to become worried about your health, perpetuating the cycle of stress and anxiety.
The fastest way to break the cycle is to work out. Exercise rids the brain and body of cortisol, the stress hormone, and floods your system with positive endorphins that make you feel good. Certain types of strength training will help you stretch and relax your tense, tired muscles, and if you are particularly anxious, mindful exercises like yoga and tai chi might calm nervous energy and quiet harmful thoughts.
4. Training Builds Willpower
Unhealthiness tends to be a self-perpetuating cycle: You eat a donut, you skip your workout, and for the next week you eat meal after meal of fast food. Fortunately, science believes that exercise is the key to breaking that cycle because it strengthens not only your body but also your willpower. By generating a fitness plan and sticking to it, come rain or shine, you bolster your self-control in other aspects of life, as well.
5. Exercise Makes Life Longer and Larger
Those who exercise just 150 minutes every week live on average seven years longer than average. This fact remains true across gender, race, and size boundaries, which means anyone can live a longer life by working out for a little over 20 minutes per day.
Plus, people who exercise regularly score higher on happiness surveys, reporting a larger enthusiasm for life than those who stick to the couch. If you want to live a long, happy life, you should exercise and eat right.
6. Fitness Breeds Self-Confidence
Almost everyone wants to look fit and heathy, and almost everyone knows that exercise is the way to do it. However, few people realize that while working out is making them look better on the outside, it is also helping them feel better about themselves on the inside.
Not everyone is capable of creating a runway-style body, but you will feel more confident and comfortable inside your skin when you put in some hours at the gym. In fact, one study found that regular exercisers have dramatically fewer body-shaming thoughts than they did before they started working out.