Health benefits of exercise

Be motivated to get fit with these eight health benefits.

By Donna Fleming
Being physically active not only helps us to lose and maintain weight. It keeps organs, such as your heart working properly, and it has many other benefits, too.
Exercising may be able to ward off those debilitating headaches. According to new research published in the journal Cephalalgia, regular physical activity may be as effective as preventative medication in holding migraines at bay.
Exercise gets your digestive tract moving, causing your intestinal muscles to squeeze and help food pass through your gut. Studies have shown that people with chronic constipation can notice big improvements when they exercise regularly.
A British study into links between exercise and vision found that people who exercised on a regular basis over a 15-year period reduced their risk of developing the eye condition glaucoma, which can lead to blindness.
Exercise makes you sweat, which purges your body of toxins that can clog pores. It also tones muscles beneath the skin, giving it better support and making it look firmer. Plus it gets blood flowing to your skin, carrying oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health.
Exercising increases the flow of blood to your brain, which helps it to work better. The more blood – and therefore oxygen – your brain gets, the better you are able to concentrate. Exercise also helps the hippocampus – the part of your brain that controls memories – to function better. People who are physically active tend to perform better on cognitive tests than sedentary adults, according to some studies.
Fit people get more done as they are better able to focus due to more blood flowing to their brain, research shows. A Swedish study found that when staff took breaks at work to exercise for half an hour a day, there was a noticeable improvement in productivity.
Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, the mood-boosting, feel-good chemical. US researchers have found that physically active people are more enthusiastic and excited about their lives. Exercise can also ease the symptoms of depression.
Exercising for just 20 minutes a day can improve sleep quality. One study found that people who do regular physical activity had less difficulty falling asleep, and slept for longer. The next day they felt more refreshed compared with sedentary people.

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