11 Surprising Reasons to Exercise

In a previous article I talked about healthy ways to lose weight.  There are LOTS of simple changes you can make in your diet and lifestyle that will help with weight loss. And yet it won’t all come together and work for you unless you keep in mind the simple advice to eat less and exercise more. The hardest part of that advice is finding powerful reasons to exercise.

For most people eating less is much easier than exercising more or doing any exercise at all! We all HAVE to eat and we can choose to eat less. But for most of us, exercise becomes optional. Having too many responsibilities along with simply too much to do and avoiding exercise can become the norm. However, if you find a strong reason to exercise it will help you to find the time to squeeze more physical activity into your busy lifestyle.
Today I have 11 surprising reasons to exercise that you may not know.
1. Don’t let your genes stop you.
Do you feel losing weight is a hopeless battle because of your genes? Well think again. New research demonstrates how exercise can override ‘fat genes’. Something as simple as a brisk walk can fight the tendency to be overweight. This is very good news because this puts the benefits of exercise within reach of more people. You don’t have to RUN a marathon!
2. Exercise may positively impact neurons and appetite.
Have you ever felt like you could not stop eating? You didn’t feel satisfied? Why this happens is complicated. However, scientists have now learned that ONE of the reasons may relate to having insensitive neurons. In a study with rodents, exercise seemed to restore the sensitivity of those neurons enabling them to trigger a sense of satiety or fullness. More research is necessary to learn if the same may be true for humans. The researchers in this study speculate that excessive consumption of fat may have interfered with the signal.
3. Prevent weight gain.
Research suggests that 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day is needed to prevent weight gain as you age unless you change your dietary habits. If you ramp that exercise up to INTENSE, you will only need to exercise 30 minutes a day. (Wall Street Journal, 3/25/10)
4. Avoid re-gaining weight.
A very important but under-appreciated benefit of exercise is that it can keep lost pounds from returning. Taking weight off in the first place can be a real struggle. When you succeed the last thing you want is to regain those lost pounds! So include exercise in your weight loss regimen NOW and it will have become second nature by the time you achieve your weight loss goals.
If you find the thought of doing intense exercise an unattainable goal, you are not alone. A recent study suggests only 5.07% of Americans do any kind of vigorous or intense physical activity on a regular basis. But how about moderate exercise?
Maybe we need to rethink our way of living. In other cultures and communities around the world where walking and cycling are the dominate means of transportation rather than driving, there are lower levels of obesity and diabetes. It seems that the dominant form of moderate activity for Americans is actually related to the preparation of food and drink! Hmm…
5. Moderate exercise may significantly reduce risk for certain kinds of cancer. It has been estimated that “More than 10,000 cases of breast and bowel cancer could be prevented each year if people took more exercise, such as going for brisk walks.” (See: Moderate Exercise ‘Could Cut Cancer’ )
Losing weight whether you exercise or not will ALSO reduce risk for cancer.
6. You’re not lazy!
Just because you don’t like exercise it may not mean you are lazy. It may simply be the way in which your body protects you from the possibility of encountering pain. (Opinion of a Washington, D.C. personal trainer 11/12/09) There are painless ways to exercise for just about everyone. You may just need a little help finding out what will work best for you.
7. Sitting for long periods of time is not good for lifespan.
A recent study suggests the longer a person sits has a negative impact on the length of his or her life. The speculation is that sitting increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease. Combining exercise with sitting helps to reduce that risk.
If you work at a desk/computer job all day as I do, you may want to find ways to get up and move about as often as your job or business allows. Not only might you burn more calories but you may also increase your lifespan.
8. Exercise decreases the risk for getting dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Exercise increases the growth of new brain cells.
9. Exercise helps with the regulation of hormones that impact appetite.
Exercise seems to reduce hunger in lean women but not obese women. (Unfortunately, women who are overweight but not obese  were not included in the study.)  Evidently, the expression of the hormone leptin is changed in obese women. When leptin function is normal it works to lessen your appetite when you’ve had enough to eat.
However, don’t rule out exercise for this reason if you have many pounds to lose. Exercise may positively influence other hormones in your body that will help you regulate appetite (Ghrelin stimulates appetite  and peptide YY suppresses appetite).
Another important point about exercise is that aerobic/cardio exercise is better at suppressing appetite than non-aerobic exercise.
10. Not exercising will age you faster.
If you have begun the path of adding more years to your life than you might like, you may be dismayed to learn that NOT exercising can cause you to become fatter as your metabolism slows AND it can actually make your face look older!
11. Exercise has been shown to improve sleep for those who suffer from insomnia.
Although exercise can provide you with many benefits as I’ve outlined here, it’s best not to count on exercise alone for weight loss. Most people need to combine exercise WITH a change in eating habits. One of the reasons for this is that it is all too easy to replace or exceed the number of calories burned with food.
I hope this article on 11 surprising reasons to exercise has given you at least one new reason to choose exercise for weight loss, weight maintenance, or simply better health.
Till next time, watch those calories, eat healthy food, and re-evaluate exercise in your life!
  • A Female Cardiologist in Los Angeles November 9, 2010, 1:05 am

    Some nice motivational points about the benefits of exercise in women. I would also like to add that the number 1 cause of death in women is heart disease. Moderate exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • Joe October 8, 2010, 12:24 pm

    Very good point at the end there about not relying only on exercise to lose weight all the exercise in the world won’t compensate for a lousy diet.