10 non-physical benefits of exercise
“Strong is the new skinny” – that’s the slogan reinforced everywhere we look, with more and more people channeling it in the pursuit of a rock solid body. But often we overlook the non-physical benefits of exercise. As one of London’s leading fusion fitness trainers – with the likes of both the super-spiritual Psycle London spin classes and ultra-relaxing barreASANA sessions on her CV – Sweaty Betty Ambassador Chiara Pellegrino shifts the focus to her 10 favourite holistic perks of regular training.
1. Happy hormones
The words ‘adrenaline’, ‘dopamine’ and ‘serotonin’ may ring a bell. And they’re worth remembering. Because these are the hormones responsible for that post-workout euphoria which inspires you to leave the studio with a little extra skip in your step. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to reap the rewards – studies show just 30 minutes of continuous exercise can boost the levels of all three.
2. Abundant self-love
Physical activity has great power to boost self-esteem and improve self-perception. It is all about looking at your reflection in the mirror and feeling happy with what you see. As the belly fat goes down and your arms look more defined, you will feel increasingly confident and positive about your results. Which will make you want to treat your body even better to continue enjoying the rewards of a healthy lifestyle.
3. Mental space
A lap around the park can do a lot more for your mental wellbeing than a round in the pub. By working up a sweat, you focus your mind on the physical effort of exercise and therefore switch off from the everyday stresses you may otherwise carry with you. Your workout is time for you, away from your email inbox and incoming phone calls.
4. Best anti-depressant
Although squats and deadlifts will certainly add tension while you’re performing them, studies show that strength training actively decreases tension in the mind. It can also reduce any symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome. So moments of the greatest stress and anxiety are in fact the times a workout may be most beneficial.
5. Smart training
You might have heard of muscle memory, but have you heard that training your muscles can lead to improved mental memory? Recent studies demonstrate that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein known as BDNF within the body. This protein is linked to increased learning and creativity, which is why exercise can inspire a new approach to that problem you’ve been solving.
6. Age-proof your brain
Exercise and a healthy lifestyle can slow down cognitive decline, especially after the age of 45. The hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning, is a key benefactor from regular exercise. That means training your body is a great way to keep your mind in good working order and keep the effects of age at bay.
7. Powerful detox companion
Exercise has a big role to play in helping to set your body clock – something that often goes awry when you’re tackling addictions. Whether you’ve experienced drug, alcohol or food addiction, your circadian rhythms may need extra help getting back to their natural order. Exercise helps to stimulate the process and focus your mind on more positive cravings like the water and healthy fuel you need for post-workout recovery.
8. A better night’s sleep
A workout session can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill. Moving around raises the body's core temperature, and as it cools back down to normal it emulates the body’s natural signals that it’s time for bed. To maximise this effect, spend extra time in the cool-down phase during a nighttime workout. From yoga, it’s an effortless transition from savasana to sleep.
9. Boost productivity
Trying to work your way through a mental obstacle can have the reverse effect of stumping you even further. It’s much more effective to tackle creative blocks by getting some fresh air and boosting your body’s blood flow. When you return to your desk, you’ll have positive energy on your side and better focus for the task ahead.
10. Social interactions
Whether it's a team game, a group class or just a run with a friend, exercise is a great way to get social. Having a workout buddy can enhance your performance by giving you a target to match or beat. It also gives you motivation to show up for that class you agreed to attend together. Your dedication to an active and healthy lifestyle can also inspire friends to follow your good example, so you help to further spread the numerous benefits of regular exercise.