Who doesn’t enjoy immediate gratification? We all want “instant” results when we begin an exercise program. In fact, many people quit because the results don’t come quickly enough. It takes time to lose fat and gain lean body mass even when you’re doing everything right. Changing your body composition doesn’t happen overnight. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the immediate benefits of working out. Here are some positive changes that happen right away when you do a workout.
Benefits of Working Out: An Immediate Energy Boost
Have you ever felt tired after a long day at work and been tempted to skip your scheduled exercise session? It happens to everyone. Instead, you diligently lace up your exercise shoes and push through a workout. Nine times out of ten exercise makes you feel more energetic. No wonder! Your heart is pumping large volumes of oxygenated blood and nutrients to all the cells in your body. Plus, hormones like adrenalin that send you into “action” mode increase. After as little as 10 minutes of exercise, that sluggish feeling subsides and you feel revitalized.
Some people skip a workout when they feel tired. If you’re truly exhausted, that may be the best option, but if it’s just run-of-the-mill, after-work fatigue, an exercise session could be exactly what you need. When you’re tempted to skip, tell yourself you’ll work out for ten minutes and see how it goes. If you’re feeling better after ten minutes, keep going.
Benefits of Working Out: The Mood-Enhancing Effects of Exercise
Exercise is a natural mood booster. A study showed exercise is as effective as a common prescription antidepressant doctors prescribe for relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression – without the side effects. Furthermore, research shows exercise helps prevent depression and even changes how your body reacts to stress. It also helps another common reaction to stress – anxiety. Exercise seems to make the brain more resistant to the effects of stress.
One theory as to how exercise lifts mood is by boosting the release of endorphins, brain chemicals that promote feelings of wellbeing and even euphoria. These are the same brain chemicals linked with “runner’s higher,” the good feelings runners get when they pound the pavement. Exercise also causes changes in other brain chemicals that help chase away the blues and reduce anxiety. Not only do you get a short-term boost in mood after a workout: the mood-enhancing benefits appear are long term as well. Enjoy the good feeling you get after a vigorous sweat session!
Benefits of Working Out: More Radiant Skin
Nothing makes your skin glow more than a vigorous workout. Exercise increases blood flow to the surface of your skin to help it release heat. This sends more oxygen and nutrients to skin cells. Blood vessels in your skin dilate and your skin has a soft glow. Most people look better after a workout because of the increase in blood flow.
Benefits of Working Out: A Sense of Empowerment and Improved Self-Esteem
Toughing out a hard workout gives you an immediate sense of accomplishment. This carries over into the rest of your day. People who work out regularly tend to have higher self-esteem and be less afraid to tackle challenges. Don’t you sometimes feel like you could take on the world after you’ve finished a tough exercise session?
One study found kids and young adults from elementary school age to college age who exercised had higher levels of self-esteem and felt better about themselves and their bodies. That short-term sense of accomplishment and empowerment you get after a workout may help you feel better about yourself.
Benefits of Working Out: Better Focus
No doubt about it – you accomplish more when you stay focused on what you’re doing. Exercise can help with that. A vigorous workout of 30 minutes or more activates a portion of your brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This part of your brain helps you stay focused and resist distractions. Research shows even a single exercise session, as short as ten minutes in length, improves focus and cognition.
If you have problems “getting going” in the morning, do a short workout before heading off to work. When you feel groggy and unfocused midday, do a ten-minute workout. If that’s not possible, get up and walk around. You’ll be more productive when you get back to your desk.
Benefits of Working Out: Creativity
Creativity sparks innovation and new ideas. Could your creativity use a kick start?
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed brain creativity was enhanced by aerobic exercise. Another study showed aerobic activity helped participants brainstorm solutions to problems and come up with innovative ideas. It seems exercise helps to remove mental blocks that keep us from coming up with new and fresh solutions. Next time you’re looking for a creative edge when solving a problem, don’t just sit there, do a workout.
Benefits of Working Out: Immediate Health Benefits
It’s not just that you feel better after a workout: it improves your short-term physical health too. Exercise helps with blood sugar regulation by improving insulin sensitivity and lowers your blood pressure. Surprisingly, you get these effects after a single workout. A single exercise session boosts the release of a chemical called nitric oxide that expands blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Over time, you’ll accumulate even more heart and blood vessel benefits including a lower risk of stroke and heart disease.
The Bottom Line?
It may take several weeks to develop muscle mass and greater endurance, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting benefits. You’re making immediate gains from your very first workout! Enjoy the many physical and psychological benefits exercise offers.
American Psychological Association. “The Exercise Effect”
Psych Central. “Exercise Improves Self-Esteem in Overweight Kids”
Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sports Psychology. “The Relationship of Self-Esteem and Body Satisfaction to Exercise Activity for Male and Female
Elementary School, High School, and University Students”
Karen Postal Ph.D. “Think Better, Exercise”
Boston.com. “4 Ways to use exercise to boost brain power”
The British Journal of Sports Medicine (3):240-245. (1997)
New York Daily News. “A single exercise session can boost creativity: study” (2013)
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