You probably exercise to reap the many physical rewards that come with being fit, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Looking great is a potent motivator to keep you on track with your workout regimen. But there’s more to it than looks. Study after study has shown that staying active has tangible results for improved mood, better body image and even a happier home life. We’ve been so inspired by seeing the positive news about exercise and the mind that we sifted through the past year’s worth of Mind & Body News columns to find the highlights, presented here. Get ready for good news!
1. Age defying.
Exercise makes for good blood flow, which benefits the brain. “There is recent evidence that people who get more physical activity get more blood flow to the brain,” says Daniel Nation, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California. That’s important because in older adults, reduced blood flow to the brain may be a risk factor for cognitive decline.
2. Mood improving.
Taking your cardio outdoors is great for your mental state. “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and increased energy together with decreases in tension, anger and depression,” says Jo Thompson Coon, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K.
3. Libido lifting.
Exercise can give you a boost in the bedroom. A regular workout routine can increase stamina and lead to better feelings about your body. These positive feelings, in turn, lead to a more satisfying sex life and greater arousal.
4. Superwoman supporting.
Researchers found that women who exercised regularly handled the interaction of work and home lives better and were less likely to feel strain. Those who were the most emotionally drained from work did not adhere to any form of exercise. Conversely, those who exercised three times a week (or more) were not as fatigued and felt able to meet the responsibilities of both work and home.
5. Exertion easing.
If you pump yourself up with positive words, you make the job at hand a little easier. When people used motivational self-talk during workouts, they reported that exercise felt easier. In fact, they improved their time to exhaustion — so they either exercised for a longer time or did the same workout feeling less tired.
Exercise can increase stamina and lead to better feelings about your body. These positive feelings, in turn, lead to a more satisfying sex life.
6. Network building.
When you train at the gym and surround yourself with people who share your passion for fitness, you set yourself up for success. A study by Dutch researchers found that people who struggle with temptation can get a self-control boost by being around strong-willed types. Other studies have found that just thinking about someone with strong resolve or watching others practice positive self-control can help you overcome temptation.
7. Bravery boosting.
The experience of building your physique contains many positive side effects for the rest of your life. While it might seem like guts are something you’re born with, that’s not entirely the case. In many ways, mental toughness is like physical strength. Once you’re stronger in the gym, you just might find yourself ready to take on a difficult issue in your life that has seemed beyond your control.