If the groundhog was right, warmer weather is imminent. That motivates some to ramp up their workouts, and who can blame them? There’s a lot of pressure for women to prep their “bikini body” ramping up this time of year. But many of the best reasons to get or keep moving have nothing to do with the scale (or anything itsy bitsy). Let the spring sun inspire you to push your fitness routine a little father, and it could benefit your brain, disease risk, mindfulness and longevity.
Sweat your way to a smarter brain. A good workout can boost your brainpower, thanks to “improvements in cerebral blood flow, leading to increased brain metabolism which, in turn, stimulates the production of neurotransmitters and formation of new synapses.” Forming new synapses is the foundation of learning new things. A review of studies from the Netherlands found that aerobic exercise (between 2-7 days a week) can also help boost cognitive processing speed, motor function and attention span in older adults
Combat the desk job sitting scourge: Researchers recently determined that increased sitting time is associated with higher inflammatory markers and lower metabolism in women. Fat cells release hormones that regulate appetite and fat metabolism (including leptin and adiponectin). In the study, more time sitting was linked to imbalances in insulin, leptin and adiponectin in adult women. Another study found that sitting for long periods increases risk for diabetes, heart disease and death. If you have a desk job, it is important to take a few minutes every hour to get up and walk around—something that’s much more pleasant to do as the weather gets nicer. For the ambitious, do a few flights of stairs in your office building, too.
Cut down on mindless snacking. While you may think that a good workout boosts your appetite, it’s often the opposite. According to recent research, 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the morning actually reduces a person’s motivation for food. The study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, measured the brain activity of 18 normal-weight women and 17 clinically obese women while they viewed food images, both following a morning of exercise and a morning without exercise. They found their response to the food pictures decreased after the brisk workout.
Reduce your breast cancer risk.A study of nearly 65,000 women found that those who were physically active had a 23% lower risk of breast cancer before menopause. In particular, high levels of physical activity from ages 12 to 22 contributed most strongly to lower breast cancer risk. Post-menopausal women also reduce their breast cancer risk with regular exercise.
Take ten years off. While a healthy body fat ratio is essential for a long and healthy life, recent research shows that physical fitness may trump it. Adults over age 60 who had higher levels of cardiovascular fitness lived longer than unfit adults, independent of their levels of body fat. Results of the study underscore the importance of physical inactivity as a risk factor for death from heart disease and stroke.
You can see some of my beginner workout recommendations for men and women here.