It’s widely known that exercise leads to weight loss, better sleep, stronger bones, reduced chronic pain and cuts the risk of diseases including diabetes and cancer. However, science shows that there are also unexpected, but medically proven, benefits to exercise.
Exercise can prevent gallstones
A sedentary lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of gallstones (ouch!). But endurance-type exercise five times per week can prevent 34 percent of cases of symptomatic gallstones.
Exercise makes you happier
Numerous studies indicate that exercise can reduce the symptoms of depression. People who exercise also tend to have high self-esteem, improved quality of life and better rates of happiness. Scientists don’t know the exact mechanism, but exercise may trigger the brain to generate serotonin and endorphins that help with mental well-being.
Exercise provides pain relief during periods
Painful periods can be debilitating, but exercise can decrease the intensity of the pain — as well as decrease the use of sedating pain medications.
Exercise helps you quit smoking
Exercise helps curb withdrawal symptoms and cravings. One study found that even people who smoked for more than 20 years were able to quit smoking through cognitive-behavioral therapy and exercising only 40 minutes three times per week. Another benefit? Former smokers who exercise can minimize post-smoking cessation weight gain.
Exercise improves your skin
Exercise coupled with a healthy diet can fight a variety of skin conditions, including psoriasis. It may not necessarily be the increased blood flow which has the positive effect — it could be the impact of weight loss.
Exercise can stop urine leakage
A very specific type of exercise — pelvic floor muscle training, known commonly at Kegel exercises — can actually improve or even cure urinary incontinence in women. Yes, I’m still counting it as exercise.
Exercise boosts your brain function
Exercise has been associated with improved cognitive function in young adults; and newer research shows it can improve daily activities (like showering, dressing and mobility) in older adults who already have dementia.
So, what is the best type of exercise routine? The one that you stick to on a regular basis.
Natasha Bhuyan, MD, is a family physician in Phoenix, AZ. You can follow her on Twitter @NatashaBhuyan