Do you believe exercise is only helpful if you need to lose weight? If so, you're in for a big surprise. Exercise has many more interesting benefits, but it can come with some drawbacks. Explore the pros and cons of exercise to see if starting an exercise program is right for you.
How Exercise Effects You
When you think of exercise, the number one thing that comes to mind is weight loss. But what if you thought about exercise from a different perspective? What if you looked at all the ways exercise effects your mind and body and not just at the calorie-burning aspects. Exercise is so much more than calorie burning. It can increase your energy, improve your mood and help you lose weight. But if you're not careful, it can also have some serious drawbacks. So discover the pros and cons of exercising and how you can determine if exercise is right for you.
Pros: Increased Energy
Many people mistakenly believe that exercise will drain their energy for the day, leaving them dull and lifeless and unable to meet the demands of their busy day. But the exact opposite is true. Exercise has actually been proven to increase energy levels throughout the day 1. Recently, researchers at the University of Georgia found that "sedentary, otherwise-healthy adults who engaged in as little as 20 minutes of low-to-moderate aerobic exercise, three days a week for six consecutive weeks, reported feeling less fatigued and more energized." So rather than reaching for another cup of joe, lace up those sneakers and go for a walk. You’ll be surprised at how much more energetic you feel.
Pros: Workout Boost
Another thing to consider is that if you're not currently exercising and you are already tired and lethargic throughout the day, you probably fear you won't have enough energy to even do a workout. Luckily, even though you feel that way, once you get started, your body will respond very quickly and you're likely to "find" plenty of energy to finish the workout. Just give it five minutes -- get through your warm-up -- and then if you still don't have then energy to finish the workout, you can go home. However, once you get your blood pumping, it's relatively certain that you'll end up finishing your workout and have much more energy than when you started.
Pros: Better Memory
Feeling forgetful? Keep misplacing your keys or losing your eyeglasses? Can’t seem to remember where you parked your car or what you had for lunch today? It could be all you need to improve your memory is a little bit of exercise. Research has shown that only 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, performed three to four times per week can improve memory function in all populations, including the elderly. So, if you’re feeling a bit forgetful, maybe all you need is a quick walk.
Pros: A Rosier Outlook
If you’re finding yourself a bit more moody than usual, it could be that you’re not exercising enough. Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, which helps to increase serotonin production. Guess what serotonin’s pseudonym is? The "happy hormone." And since exercise increases serotonin production, it can help make you happier and ease mood swings. You’ve probably heard of the "runner’s high." That is caused by serotonin production in the brain, which is increased through regular exercise. Moderate exercise is also helpful in easing PMS symptoms and the associated mood swings.
Pros: Look Younger
Did you know that exercise really is the fountain of youth? The increased blood flow and oxygen intake that come from exercise have been shown to improve skin elasticity and help keep your skin looking younger. Increased oxygenation of the blood also encourages skin cell turnover, which can help lessen the look of wrinkles. Additionally, exercise helps fight off free radicals, which are known to age skin. If you’re looking for that youthful glow, look no further than your local gym.
In addition to all of these wonderful things exercise does for you, it also helps you sleep better, move more easily through everyday life and create stronger, healthier relationships. Oh, and it burns plenty of calories too. Keep in mind that exercise has a variety of benefits, but can also come with some drawbacks.
Cons: Increased Risk of Injury
If you’ve never exercised before, you may not know how to perform certain exercises properly, which can lead to injury. If you would like to start an exercise program, it’s best to consult your physician to ensure you are healthy enough to begin a program and then consult with a personal trainer or coach who can help you design a program specifically for you. These professionals can show you how to perform each exercise with proper form so you won’t get hurt.
Cons: The Halo Effect
Exercise is known to suppress appetite; however, many people use exercise as an excuse to indulge in unhealthy foods or big calorie splurges. When beginning an exercise program, be careful not to allow what’s known as the "halo effect" to derail all of your hard work at the gym. If you’re not careful, you could actually end up gaining weight from all those splurges that you think you’ve earned at the gym. Keep in mind that you’re exercising to improve your health, not so you can eat more.
Cons: Changes in Relationships
This is something many people don’t think about, but when you embark on a new healthy lifestyle habit like exercise, the other people in your life may not jump on board with you right away. One of the pitfalls of starting a new healthy habit is that the actions taken to improve your health may disrupt the flow of some of your relationships. To some, your new penchant for daily exercise may appear vain or selfish. Others may fear that it will take time away from them as you spend more time at the gym. They may think you’re not up for having fun with them anymore because you’re getting healthy. Or they may be jealous when you start looking and feeling so much better. Be sure to invite those in your life along for the journey. You can have more fun getting fit and can encourage others to improve their health and well-being too. Think of this as your opportunity to create a new healthy habit with those you love and you might be able to avoid this con entirely.
Exercise can have a place in anyone's life, especially when it is approached with caution. Carefully examine the pros and cons and determine for yourself if the pros outweigh the cons. If you decide to embark on a new exercise program, please check with your doctor and obtain his or her clearance for beginning a program. It doesn’t take much -- even a quick 20-minute walk can improve your energy, help you sleep better and improve your mood. So lace up your sneakers, grab a friend and get moving. The sooner you get started, the sooner you'll begin reaping all of the wonderful benefits exercise has to offer.
- Martinan/iStock/Getty Images