The Benefits of Exercise
A few days ago, some professors from UT Austin and Georgia State published a study analyzing the relationship between income and physical activity. This study found that the more you make each year, the higher your chances are to be a “weekend warrior”.
Not sure what that means? Weekend warriors get most of their physical activity into their schedule in their spare time. They go hard on the weekends because that’s all the time they have.
This makes sense considering those with higher incomes are likely to work longer hours which will inevitably lead to less time for leisure and physical activities. The study, which appeared in Preventative Medicine, used activity monitors to show that people with higher incomes spent more time staying stil doing things like sitting at a computer, laying down, or just hanging out. Getting rest is great, but regular and prolonged sedentary behavior (a.k.a. sloth mode) just isn’t good for you. It increases the risk of premature death and a whole slew of diseases, including cancer.
Part of why I decided to be a wellness professional is because I’ve seen firsthand how important it is to take proper care of yourself. We’re always spending time helping and caring for other people—we shouldn’t neglect our own bodies. If you don’t believe me, here are some of the benefits of regular exercise:
Exercise controls your weight.
People who buy into fad diets are often too focused on losing weight. But when you think about it, there are plenty of people who see a higher number on the scale than they think they should but are very healthy. Taking care of yourself isn’t about getting that number as low as possible, it’s about building and maintaining a healthy body that you can rely on for years.
Exercise minimizes the risk of dangerous health conditions.
Heart disease, high blood pressure, and degenerative illnesses are all problems we may face one day. However, with regular exercise, the risk of developing those problems decreases greatly. Being active boosts “good” cholesterol (HDL) and decreases triglycerides. This means that the blood in your body doesn’t get blocked by fatty deposits and can run smoothly. Other diseases that regular exercise can help prevent include type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and even depression.
Exercise improves your mood.
Whether you’ve had a crappy day or need to blow off some steam, exercising— whether you’re stomping around and feeling angry or lifting weights—helps. Physical activity releases mood-boosting chemicals like dopamine, which is why runners sometimes get what’s called “runner’s high”.
Exercise helps you sleep better.
After a great workout, we often feel tired. Regular exercise helps you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. If you suffer from restless nights, try a new workout routine. It just might be the key to peaceful sleep.
Exercise boosts your energy reserves.
As you age, you might be surprised by how exhausted you feel after just one trip to the grocery store. That’s not a good sign. Regular physical activity improves your strength and endurance, making your body more efficient in the process. Exercise delivers nutrients and oxygen straight to your tissues, which means you’ll have more energy to tackle anything, whether it’s work or chores.
Exercise improves your sex life.
Sometimes you can feel too tired or unattractive to enjoy physical closeness with your loved one. It seems counterintuitive to say that exercise can revive the tired spark in your bedroom, but it’s true! Women who regularly exercise often have higher libidos, and men who regularly exercise experience fewer problems with erectile dysfunction.
Exercise can be a social activity.
I have clients that I’ve worked with for years and by now, I consider them my friends! Meeting with them and encouraging them to achieve their goals is immensely gratifying. You can join a soccer team, go on a brisk walk before dinner, or take a class at the local gym. You’ll make new friends who can lift you up and hold you accountable too.
So what’s up with the different exercise trends between high-income and low-income people? There’s an easy explanation for that.
On one hand, people with higher incomes have more access to great gyms, parks, and open spaces that they can visit on weekends. But since they often hold office jobs, they’re stuck at a desk from Monday to Friday. They have to scramble for time on Saturdays and Sundays to give their bodies the workout they need.
On the other hand, people with lower incomes may have more physically taxing jobs. In the study, they showed more physical activity spread out over the week, but it wasn’t as intense as the higher-income individuals. Essentially, high income means less time, more intense physical activity. Low income means more time, less intense physical activity.
Here are the numbers: when compared to people making $20,000 or less, people with an annual income of $75,000 or more spent 4.6 more minutes a day on average doing moderate to vigorous physical activity like running, going to the gym, and really working up a sweat.They spent 9.3 fewer daily minutes doing light-intensity activity and spent 11.8 more daily minutes in sloth mode.
Dr. Shuval, one of the doctors from the American Cancer Society, stated, “Our findings underscore the importance of tailoring the physical activity message to reflect the constraints of both low and high-income individuals.” Essentially, as long as you’re meeting your physical activity guidelines, it doesn’t matter if you spend 2 days a week doing high-intensity activity or 7 days a week doing low-intensity activity. What matters is that you get some exercise.