Want to slim down, firm flab and boost your body confidence? Regular workout sessions can help accomplish all of those things. But there are other reasons why exercise deserves a spot on your weekly schedule that have nothing to do with losing weight—and they could boost your quality of life. Learn about more major payoffs from your workouts.
IT MAKES SEX MORE FUN
Research has shown that exercise outside the bedroom can turn up the heat inside. In one study, 300 men self-reported their exercise habits and sex lives; researchers found a positive correlation between those who worked out and their sexual function. Another study found that women who participated in short bouts of vigorous exercise experienced increased blood flow to their genital area, enhancing sexual enjoyment. And if you like to swim, here’s another reason to jump in the pool: In a study of 160 male and female swimmers in their 40s and 60s, Harvard University researchers found that swimming was associated with more frequent, satisfying sex.
YOU MAY LIVE LONGER
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who are physically active for about seven hours per week have a 40 percent lower risk of premature death than those who clock less than 30 minutes of weekly activity. In fact, just 150 minutes a week of moderately intense cardio, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio, such as running, can help prevent dying early. If you can get closer to 300 minutes of week of moderate exercise or 150 minutes of more strenuous activity, it’s even better. In fact, the more exercise you get, the greater the health benefits. But keep in mind that every minute of exercise counts towards this weekly goal. Even a short walk offers health benefits.
The CDC also reports that regular exercise decreases your risk of many conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and certain cancers, such as colon and breast cancer. Gardening, taking your dog for a walk and other low-impact activities all count as exercise that will work toward reducing your risk for a slew of chronic health issues. If that’s not reason enough to get moving, we’re not sure what is!
Get motivated to get your daily activity by downloading the Sharecare app, available on both iOS and Android. Sharecare tracks your daily steps, so you can get a sense of how much you move—and you can try to go further each day.
YOU’LL SNOOZE BETTER
It seems that active days can bring restful nights. A 2013 National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) 2013 poll found that exercisers reported higher sleep satisfaction than their more sedentary peers. Plus, those who don’t exercise are at higher risk for sleep issues such as insomnia and sleep apnea. One surprising finding: the NSF says that “normal” sleepers can work out at any time, even within a few hours of bedtime, unless it interferes with their ability to doze off.
IT CAN KEEP YOUR NOGGIN SHARP
There is some evidence that regular exercise throughout your lifetime is associated with better memory and cognitive skills. In one study led by researchers at the University of Illinois, 120 older adults underwent MRI brain scans. Half of the group then began a program of moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking, for 45 minutes, three days a week. When their brains were rescanned a year later researchers found that the exercisers’ brain volume had increased. Another small study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that just one 30-minute bout of moderate exercise could help improve memory, planning and reasoning.
IT MAY HELP YOU STOP SMOKING
An analysis of 20 studies with a total of 5,870 participants suggested that exercise may help people kick the habit for good. While more research is needed, one study showed evidence that people who received smoking cessation information along with an exercise program had higher rates of nonsmoking at a six-month follow-up than did those who only received smoking cessation advice. Research has also suggested that working out with a friend after quitting tobacco can increase the sense of support.
Sourcing: CDC, Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, American College of Sports Medicine, National Institutes of Health, National Sleep Foundation, American Psychological Association