Of course, you look so cute in those leggings with the matching crop and your fresh sneaks. And maybe you’re hitting the gym, fitness class, or yoga mat on the living room floor so that you keep looking cute in that ‘fit, not to mention all your other favorite looks. But a hot bod is truly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a healthy exercise regimen. Your mind is at stake.
Regular exercise rituals can be a difficult habit to initiate, but once created, the benefits outweigh the temptation to be lazy by a hundredfold. Elle Woods might be the most quoted when it comes to her claim about the power of endorphins, but she was definitely onto something. While we can’t seem to find any studies that claim endorphins can prevent a murder, we can say a few other things.
It’s true that endorphins are your body’s feel-good neurotransmitters, but they do a lot more than make you briefly happy. Studies show that aerobic movement can reduce anxiety or depression by increasing circulation to the brain, which has a positive influence on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, aka your stress hormone response. This systemically has an effect on your motivation and mood.
There are other studies that point out how a good sweat during the day can help you sleep at night, and not just because it uses up energy stores and tires you out. It’s much more complex than that. In fact, working out earlier in the day can help wake you up, because it raises your body’s core temperature (which is naturally lower when you are getting restful, restorative sleep).
Since working out raises your heart rate and cortisol, when done earlier in the day, this coincides with the natural circadian rhythm, and sets you up for deeper sleep in the evenings, referred to as slow wave sleep. Slow wave sleep is the deep, restorative rest, “where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate,” according to John Hopkins Medicine.
So you’re less stressed, happier, sleeping better, and getting fit, but there is also evidence that shows exercise has a positive effect on your skin, both short- and long-term. If you’ve ever admired a healthy flush you have after a run or a yoga class, you can thank your stimulated blood flow and improved circulation for that. However, endurance-related workouts that get you good and sweaty have been shown to boost mitochondrial metabolism, meaning they help you combat and reverse signs of aging on a cellular level. You can’t bottle that.
Movement doesn’t just move your blood, it moves your lymph, as well. Unblocked lymph flow is crucial to avoid swelling, bloating, and puffiness for immediate physical results, but also for long-term immune health. Having a healthy lymphatic flow that prevents the stagnation of toxins in your body can mean avoiding catching a bug, and keeping inflammation to a minimum. As if we needed any other reason, now seems like the perfect time to get movin’.