With social distancing, it can be challenging to find safe ways to exercise. But now more than ever, it’s important to stay active. After all, the benefits of exercise can be seen from your brain to your bones and everywhere in between.
Here’s how exercise benefits your body:
Gets the blood flowing, increasing memory and mood
Exercise helps pump oxygen to the brain, lowering the level of stress hormones and increasing mood-enhancing serotonin levels. Everything from the “runner’s high” to the “yogi’s tranquility” can have profound effects on your brain. In fact in studies, running was associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. What’s more, within just five minutes after moderate exercise, many people feel a mood-enhancement effect.
Increases heart health and decreases blood pressure
Regular exercise has both immediate and long-lasting benefits linked to cardiovascular health, resulting in lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels, and better blood sugar regulation. When it comes to weight management, exercise combined with a healthy diet can make all the difference. After all, extra weight on the body puts stress on the heart and is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Maintaining a healthy body weight is key to improving heart health.
Supports and strengthens the lungs
Physical activity gets your heart and lungs working harder to supply additional oxygen that your muscles demand. In fact, regular exercise doesn’t just make your muscles stronger, it also strengthens your lungs and heart. And the stronger your body becomes, the more efficient it is at getting oxygen to the bloodstream, which in turn gets it to the muscles. Some forms of exercise can even strengthen the diaphragm and the muscles between the ribs that work together to power inhaling and exhaling. As you exercise more, you may notice you become less winded with physical activity. That’s a sign your lungs are getting stronger and your body is working more efficiently.
Builds bones – and muscle
Exercise offers many benefits for your musculoskeletal system, strengthening both bones and muscles. When you exercise regularly, your bones adapt by building more cells and becoming denser. This is important as you age. In fact, the more you move and incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle, the likelihood of developing serious joint problems and fractures when you’re older is reduced. Plus, stronger bones and muscles improve your balance, lowering your chances of falling. From increasing the number and density of the capillaries that supply blood to your skeletal muscles to strengthening your ligaments and tendons, exercise can be essential to keeping you strong and healthy in your later years.
If you’re looking for ways to stay active during this time of social distancing, join one of Harvard Pilgrim’s free yoga or Zumba sessions online.
This article first appeared as featured content in Harvard Pilgrim’s HaPi Guide newsletter on April 29, 2020. To stay up-to-date on the latest healthcare topics such as the future of health care, new ways to be healthy or the business of insurance, sign up to receive our monthly communication: