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The 6 Invisible Benefits of Exercise

Six surprising reasons to sweat that go far beyond vanity.

6 Invisible Benefits of Exercise | The Fit List |

1. You Feel No (or at Least Less) Pain

2. Your Brain Gets Super-Charged

3. You’re Sexier—No Six-Pack Needed

4. You Crave Healthier Food

5. Your Bowels Flow Freely

6. You Become Unbreakable

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What does unbreakable mean in this context?

Here's what it says:

You build muscle by creating micro-tears in those tissues when you work out. While you’re resting, your body repairs those tears, ultimately building your muscles back stronger, and sometimes bigger. The same goes for bones. When you’re forced to work against gravity, your muscles pull on your bones, forcing them to remodel and become stronger. The result: you’re less prone to fracture—or to getting hurt going about your day-to-day tasks.

Having stronger muscles can even prevent you from breaking a bone. A noteworthy Australian study found that calf circumference was linked to tibia pain—in fact, each 10 millimeter reduction in calf circumference increased the risk of tibial stress fracture fourfold. It could be that the electric properties of leg muscle tissue, combined with lean muscle mass, allows those muscles to dampen impact forces when your feet strike the ground, which helps keep you injury-free.

Thanks for the clarification -- I believe that it makes us less prone to fracture.

But "unbreakable" is a specific word and I'm fairly certain we can still break bones, even with stronger muscles.

My favorite of the six is the benefit to the brain:

When compared to less-fit peers, athletes have larger brain volumes in the basal ganglia and hippocampus, areas associated with thought, action, behavior, decision-making, and memory, says Sims.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you can exercise your way into Mensa. The relationship between brain volume and intelligence is hotly debated. While brain volume hasn’t been directly tied to intelligence (if it were, sperm whales would rule the world), smaller brain volume has been linked to disorders like Alzheimer’s, depression, and even schizophrenia, leading some to believe bigger is truly better, at least in health. And growing your hippocampus, studies have found, can improve spatial memory, or the memory of one’s environment, like the layout of your house or hometown.

One of the ways it grows is through endurance exercise, research shows. Exercise can trigger the growth of new nerves and synapses—the junction points between different nerves. A stronger network in your noggin means a better functioning brain.

How much do you need to workout to see those benefits? Not as much as you think. One study found that 40 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (60 to 75 percent of max heart rate) three days a week in older people increased brain volume by 2 percent. Another performed in older adults with mild memory impairments found that twice weekly, hour-long sessions of aerobic activity, like a brisk walk, increased hippocampal volume.

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