Plenty of people take up exercise in hopes of dropping a few pounds, but the benefits of working out go far beyond what can be measured on a scale. Physical activity makes your body stronger, your mind happier, and gives you increased energy, focus, and a more positive attitude. Regardless of whether you hit the track or a yoga mat, here are a few of the benefits of committing to a regular workout. 

Boost Your Memory

A workout for your body is also a workout for your brain. Exercise improves memory and thinking skills by encouraging the body to produce chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and the overall health of new brain cells. Gym rats who exercise regularly may also benefit from an increase in the volume of the parts of their brains that control thinking and memory.  

Calm Your Mind

That boost of feel-good endorphins after a great workout is the real deal. These beneficial chemicals provide an immediate mood-lifting effect, while also curbing the stress hormone cortisol and eliciting calming brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. As for more long-term mental health benefits, the American Journal of Psychiatry published a study that found that if all participants had engaged in a minimum of 1 hour of physical activity each week, 12 percent of cases of depression in the future could have been prevented. 

Eat Less 

Think that working out will only make you hungry? Think again. Exercise may actually help control your appetite. Neuroscientists have found that physical activity releases hormones associated with satiety. Additionally, exercise is a very effective stress reducer, which makes it a great antidote to emotional eating. Avid exercisers also report that the more they exercise, the more they’re motivated to choose healthy foods that provide optimal fuel. 

Live Longer

From disease prevention and reversal to its anti aging effects, exercise is crucial to longevity. Any amount of exercise can add years to your life. According to one study funded by the National Institutes of Health, people who regularly engage in physical activity may add as many as 4½ years to their life. 

Sleep Better

Exercise can improve both the quantity and quality of sleep. Many researchers believe this is because exercise can spike daytime alertness, drive sleepiness at night, and strengthen our circadian rhythm. The kicker? The sleep benefits of exercise are not immediate: One study demonstrated that it takes 16 weeks of a consistent, regular exercise routine before sleep quality improves. Participants who stuck with a regular fitness routine for 16 weeks averaged an increase of 75 minutes of sleep.

Smile More

One study found that just 20 minutes of exercise can boost your mood for 12 hours. Exercise is correlated with enhanced energy and alertness during the day; improved performance, both mentally and physically; greater productivity; and overall happiness. 

Think More Clearly

Exercise has been found to have cognitive boosting effects that allow us to exercise better executive function and decision-making skills. This translates into more thoughtful—and often healthier—food choices. That’s great news because we make about 200 food decisions every day. 

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