Just about everyone has heard how important it is to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. However, there’s a difference between knowing something on an intellectual level and finding the motivation to put that knowledge into practice in daily life. Learning about the specific benefits of physical activity can make it easier to find motivation, especially once people start What Does Living an Active Lifestyle Mean? Exercising and start seeing them play out in their own lives.
Before discussing specific physical and mental health benefits associated with active living, let’s take a moment to clarify the terms. A lot of people assume they would need to be hitting the gym hard every day to experience the most beneficial effects of regular exercise, but thankfully, that’s not the case. Many Americans build exercise into their daily lives by living in communities like Metro Places that make it fun to stay active and engaged.
1. Increase the Body’s Ability to Combat Disease
Regular exercise is the key to improving heart health, but heart disease is far from the only health risk that can be lowered by getting more exercise. Regular exercise helps to keep blood pressure low, boosts good cholesterol, and decreases triglyceride levels. These three factors help to keep active adults’ risks of developing heart problems low. Regular physical activity also helps to prevent:
- And even certain types of cancer
When it comes to pelvic health-related issues for women, such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or weakening of pelvic floor muscles, that arise postpartum, the right pelvic floor exercise will help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, alleviate pelvic pain and discomfort, improve bladder, and reduce pelvic floor prolapse.
2. Get an Energy Boost
Just about everyone feels worn out after a serious exercise session, but don’t be fooled. Staying active boosts overall energy levels by improving cardiovascular function. When people’s hearts and lungs are healthy, they can deliver adequate oxygen throughout the body, helping to alleviate problems with chronic fatigue.
As an added bonus, regular exercise also improves sleep quality. Whether people struggle with insomnia or another sleep disorder, exercising makes it easier to fall asleep and stay that way throughout the night. To get maximum sleep improvement benefits, people should exercise early in the day, not right before bed. Exercising right before bed can make it harder to fall asleep quickly.
3. Control Weight
More than 42% of Americans are clinically obese, and those extra pounds don’t just take a toll on self-esteem. Being overweight or obese also raises the risk of struggling with other serious health complications such as type II diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and others. Adopting a more active lifestyle is a great way to shed extra weight and keep it off.
Don’t expect to see results overnight. Even when paired with a healthy diet, daily physical activity helps people lose weight in a healthy way. It’s not like a fad diet. People who exercise regularly lose weight more slowly, but they’re also less likely to put it back on in the long term, especially if they find ways to build physical activity into their normal lives.
4. Reduce Stress
Given that exercise is, in a literal sense, a form of physical stress, it may seem strange to think of it as a relaxing activity. However, research indicates that aerobic exercise can indeed alleviate mental stress. It may not feel that way at first, as getting back into shape takes a lot of work. Over time, though, regular aerobic activity can help to alleviate stress and anxiety.
There are a few ways to explain the correlation between more frequent exercise and lower stress levels. First, the body releases norepinephrine to moderate physical stress. This endogenous chemical helps to regulate stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and increases endorphin production.
Certain types of exercise also help to reduce stress by encouraging people to make behavioral changes. Heading out for a swim, for example, gives people time away from the normal stresses of life and builds opportunities for social networking with other active adults. Even a quick, 20-minute walk can help clear the mind and provide a welcome distraction from work or family responsibilities.
5. Improve Mental Acuity
Regular exercise can improve memory and cognitive function. It gets more oxygen to the brain and facilitates the formation of neural cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for handling memories and learning.
Studies show that boosting the production of healthy chemicals in the brain can even help to fight off the mental effects of aging. Researchers found that adults between the ages of 25 and 45 who exercise regularly are less likely to develop dementia later in life. It’s no cure-all, but there’s a definite correlation.
6. Increase Self-Confidence
Getting in shape and staying active can boost people’s self-confidence. It’s not just a matter of taking a few inches off of expanding waistlines, either. Setting an activity goal then working to reach it can make anyone feel better about his or her abilities.
7. Form Social Connections
One of the best things about living a more active lifestyle is that it also fosters stronger social connections. There are classes at most local gyms, but there’s no need to seek out social events to start meeting other physically active adults. Even people who prefer modes of exercise like heading out for a morning jog are more likely to meet their neighbors.
8. Accomplish More in Life
The cumulative effect of all the physical, mental, and social benefits of living an active lifestyle is that people accomplish more than they would if they remained more sedentary. It’s easier to perform routine tasks like moving furniture or carrying groceries with stronger muscles and a cardiovascular system that’s in peak condition. The extra confidence boost can spill over from people’s social lives to their work lives, making them more likely to accomplish career goals. Plus, staying active makes aging gracefully and maintaining independence later in life a breeze.
The Bottom Line
The hardest part of adopting an active lifestyle is getting started. Once people start exercising more and finding ways to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives, continuing to do so will become a healthy habit. Even if starting new exercise routines is hard at first, the long-term payoffs will be well worth the effort.