14 Eye-Opening, Scientific Facts About Exercise

woman running outsideWhether you love, dread, or are indifferent about exercise, the fact remains: It does a body good. But what else do you know about working on your fitness?

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Besides, of course, the fact that we ALL should be doing it more.

Check out our list of real science-y facts about exercise. Maybe it'll motivate you to lace up your sneaks and love working up a sweat a little bit more.

1. Exercise gives your brain a boost. And not because you think you look better in your swimsuit. Working out boosts certain chemicals in the brain that help you to be sharper and more aware.

2. Being active staves off disease. Get moving, and you'll reduce your risk of many major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer by up to 50 percent. Oh, and your chances of early death will drop by about 30 percent.

3. Working out is good for asthma. Just a half hour each day of moderate exercise (like walking or riding your bike) can reduce asthma symptoms. But here's the catch: You'll benefit most if you work out YEAR-ROUND, not just on sunny, warm days.

4. Twenty minutes can make a difference. Sure, wouldn't we all love to squeeze in five hours of vinyasa every week? But with jobs and kids, that can be unrealistic. Luckily, two or three 20-minute sweat sessions may be as effective as doing it all at once.

5. Or, um, not. Hot-off-the-press research shows that the "30 minutes a day" guidelines that the American Heart Association recommends may NOT be enough to lower your risk of a heart attack. To do that, you need to sweat for 60 to 120 minutes. So, there's that.

6. Exercise can save teens' lives. Scientists studied data from over 13,000 high school students and found that working out reduced their suicidal thoughts and attempts by 23 percent. Which is pretty significant, really cool, and likely applicable to adults, too, considering that ...

7. ... being active keeps your anxiety in check. Exercise releases endorphins -- your body's natural painkillers. And if your body feels better, so will your mind. Some studies show that exercise works as well as medication in treating anxiety and depression.

8. Exercise is good for your sex life. That's motivation if we ever heard it. We women feel more desirable and aroused after exercise. Men who work out are less likely to have arousal problems.

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9. Eating before a workout helps you burn more fat. The old school of thought was that you should head to the gym on an empty stomach, right? Now researchers know that about 150 calories beforehand (like a 1/2 cup of yogurt or a whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter) helps you burn more fat for up to 24 hours.

10. Facebook might motivate you to go to the gym. Someone uploads a post-workout pic to their wall or a selfie from the finish line of a race, and the rest of us get inspired to get off our butts and do something, too. In psych-speak, positive signals are forming a reinforcing loop that pushes us to  -- oh, you get the idea.

11. Working out alone might help you work out harder. That's what research from Santa Clara University found. But don't give up your gym buddy just yet. You'll probably do just fine if you work out with someone similar to you in skill and style.

12. Being active protects against dementia. Research shows that physical activity helps older adults stay sharp. But there's some evidence that being active in childhood can ALSO have a protective effect many years down the road.

13. An exercise pill is on the way. Researchers at the University of Sydney have ID'd 1,000 molecular changes that take place in the body during a workout. Next step: designing a drug that mimics that. It could be a life-changer for people like amputees who are unable to exercise.

14. Exercise can become an addiction. Too much activity leads to injuries, anemia, mood disorders, and hormonal issues. Experts aren't sure what causes it -- but think there may be a link to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

 

Image © lzf/iStock

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