The desire to lose weight or “tone up” brings millions of people into the gym each year. While exercise can certainly help improve your physique, the benefits of exercise go far beyond body aesthetics. In fact, many people first enter the gym because they want to lose weight (hi there) but over time, it becomes less about improving their figure and more about how great exercise makes them feel. I’m going to outline five benefits of exercise that go far beyond shedding a couple pounds.

Exercise Improves Memory

Not only can exercise improve memory in the short-term but it can help in the long-term as well. This study concluded that exercise can help reverse age-related loss of memory by increasing the size of the part of the brain that controls memory (the hippocampus.) The hippocampus shrinks in late adulthood which can impair memory. Adults that are more fit have a larger hippocampus and therefore, better memory. So, next time you pick up a set of weights or hop on the treadmill, you can feel good about doing your future self a favor.

Exercise Helps with Depression

This study examined the effects of exercise on symptoms of depression in chronically ill patients. It concluded that people with a chronic illness that exercised regularly had less depressive symptoms than those that didn’t. This is true in people without a chronic illness as well. People with severe depression should consult their doctor, but for people who many have seasonal depression or other mild depressive symptoms, exercise can help improve those symptoms. 

You’ll be Sick Less Often

Still in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, risk of illness is on a lot of people’s minds. According to this study, subjects that exercised aerobically and those that were more fit than sedentary subjects decreased upper respiratory tract infection rates, symptoms, and severity between 32% and 46%. If you’re someone that gets sick often or may have more severe illness than other people you know, exercise may be able to reduce the amount of sick days you have.

Exercise Can Improve Your Posture

Jobs that involve a lot of sitting can lead to rounded shoulders and low back pain in adults. Exercising can help reverse these effects to improve your posture and quality of life. It’s important to stretch the muscles of your body while strengthening muscles as well. Doing exercises like barbell rows or cable rows can strengthen the muscles of your upper back and prevent your shoulders from rounding forward. It’s important to make sure you get up, move and stretch throughout the day as well. 

Likelihood of Developing Osteoporosis is Lowered

Osteoporosis and low bone density affects millions of people in the U.S. every year.. Exercise has been shown to prevent low bone density in older adults that can lead to osteoporosis. Women are more likely to develop this condition as men are. Doing weight bearing exercise can help increase mineral content of bones and prevent osteoporosis.

There are dozens of great reasons to include exercise in your daily life. Whether it’s hitting the weights for an hour five days a week or getting outside for a thirty-minute walk a few days a week, exercise has some amazing long-term benefits to your health. 

Sydney Vachon, NASM CPT

Personal trainer at Fit Focus Laconia