Senior woman jogging

More Reasons to Love Exercise

Your Wellness
With the start of a new decade, some of you might be making significant changes in your lives, setting new goals, feeling re-energized.

But I fear the momentum may be dwindling for many. For instance, my gym, which was bursting at the seams come January 1, is now, well, thinning out a bit. I'm not seeing the same old familiar faces as often.

Maybe you're a fan of exercise. Maybe you hate it.

Or you could fall somewhere in between. Are you are doing it but having a hard time staying motivated?

Whatever it may be, it's always heartening - and helpful - to remember that exercise is a proven prescription for health. My love affair with moving my body began early in life, when the suburban neighborhood I lived in begged me to join all the other kids outside for spontaneous games of tag, kickball, softball, bike races - you name it. While I wasn't what you'd consider a jock, I simply liked to be active - and I'd take it in any form.

Once the childlike charm of moving wore off, I realized it was still something I liked, but more important than that, it was something that was really, truly important to good health. My breast cancer diagnosis spurred me into action, as I was desperate to put myself back in the world of the well. And exercise equaled wellness. I simply felt better, less sluggish and just plain happier.

So, now that you know my reasons to exercise, I'll offer you more to think about when your energy wanes and the couch looks so much more tempting than the gym does:

  • A bigger (and better) brain: People who exercise score better on memory tests. Exercise targets a region of the brain within the hippocampus, which is associated with normal age-related memory decline.
  • A healthier heart: People who exercise have a reduced risk of dying from heart disease. Exercise helps your heart and cardiovascular system work more efficiently and helps control high blood pressure.
  • Younger cells: In a recent study in which scientists studied the life spans of cells in several groups, the results were described as "striking." The cells of many of the middle-aged athletes appeared to be much younger than cells of sedentary control subjects who were much younger. The fitter a person was in middle age and onward, the younger their cells appeared. Activity, the researchers found, has a profound and possibly protective effect on our DNA.
  • A happier mood: Ever wonder why you go into the gym feeling so-so, but always come out feeling happier? Exercise can change neurotransmitter levels in the brain, like serotonin. In fact, many scientists think that exercise has the same biological effect on the brain as antidepressant drugs like prozac do.

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