Lots of us are pretty great at coming up with reasons NOT to exercise—I’m too tired after work; it’s too hot out; it’s too cold out; they opened a Krispy Kreme next to my gym; all of my workout clothes perished in a tragic laundry “accident.”
As for coming up with reasons to get moving? We’ve got that covered. The past few weeks have been chock-full of new studies and data extolling some pretty convincing new-found benefits of exercise. You might want to start lacing up as you read, and don’t even try to tell us that your dog ate your sneakers. We’re on to you.
1. Exercise Helps Reverse Aging
A recent study found that positive lifestyle changes like good diet and exercise habits can reverse the aging deep in our cells. It has to do with telomere length, the protective caps made of DNA and protein at the end of chromosomes that help protect a cell from aging. Telomeres become shorter and weaker over time, leading cells to age and die, and leaving you at increased risk for some cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes, and more. But the study found that a healthy diet and moderate exercise (walking 30 minutes a day, six days a week) lengthened one’s telomere length by 10 percent after five years. Telomere length was three percent shorter after five years in the study group that didn’t make those lifestyle changes.
2. Exercise Can Lessen Depression Symptoms
There’s been a lot of research over the years on the link between exercise and depression, and a new review of studies published in the Cochrane Library looks promising. Exercise causes your pituitary gland to release endorphins to help ease your physical stress and pain while you work out—but those endorphins may have more long-term results too. A team that examined 39 past studies on depression and exercise (they included a total of 2,326 people with depression), found that exercise did indeed moderately benefit symptoms of depression.
3. Some Workouts Help You Eat Less
A study published in The International Journal of Obesity recently looked at the effect of exercise on appetite, asking volunteers to participate in a series of increasingly strenuous workouts over a few days. In addition to a standard liquid breakfast, researchers also presented volunteers with porridge after the workout (the bland food was chosen specifically to test for appetite without factors like an enticing aroma or visual getting in the way). They found that when volunteers rested or had a moderate workout, they loaded up on the porridge—but when they did interval workouts they consumed significantly less. They also had lower levels of ghrelin (a hormone that’s known to stimulate appetite) and higher levels of blood lactate and blood sugar (which both lessen the drive to eat) after the most strenuous interval workout.
4. You Get the Benefits Regardless of Your Weight
If you’re struggling with eating habits and your weight, it can feel pretty overwhelming to start worrying about exercise too… not to mention sort of futile. After all, if you’re carrying an extra 75 pounds, what good will a morning jog do? Plenty, it turns out! At the recent 20th International Congress of Nutrition in Granada, researchers shared that even if you’re overweight or obese, being moderately fit—the researchers cite as little as three 10-minute walks five days a week—reduces your risk for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory disorders.