8 Unexpected Benefits of ExerciseSarah Bregel
Since childhood, we were raised to understand the importance of exercise. Gym class, high school sports, and the presence of membership-only gyms on every other block all exist to remind us that fitness is an integral part of living a healthy, fulfilled life. But regular exercise has many unexpected benefits as well. We’ve compiled the best reasons to break out of your rut and get moving as soon as possible. Read them, and get to it!
1) You’ll remember where you parked the car
Feeling frazzled often goes hand in hand with being a parent. This is an undeniable fact, unless Super Nanny happens to be your closest friend and also lives next door. But a good way to combat the mommy brain effect of parenthood is to exercise. (It’s often recommended for kids and adults with ADD/ADHD to help them zone in.) Just thirty minutes a day, five days a week will help you regain the focus you had in your past, pre-baby life.
2) Your kids will grow up to be fitness instructors
Okay, so they may not become trainers, but it’s been shown that parents who practice healthy routines, like exercise and a balanced diet, often have kids who grow up to do the same. It is never too early to start setting a positive example for your children, even if they’re still in diapers. And for your sake, why not start sooner rather than later? Wouldn’t you prefer your son or daughter live an active lifestyle instead of one spent eating chips in front of the TV? So if your own health isn’t enough to motivate you, realize the undeniable impact of the example you set for your kids each day.
3) You’ll love your kids more
The days that I manage to get my butt to the gym happen to be the same days that I believe my daughter to be the greatest, most well behaved child in the universe. The days that I don’t make time, or decide I am too tired, to work out are the days I find myself asking, “Why, God, why is my daughter such a jerky little toddler?!” Well, it’s not a coincidence. Exercise boosts feel-good hormones while simultaneously relieving stress. So the next time you feel the tension building, instead of screaming into a pillow (although that can be mildly comforting) strap the kids in the jogger or sneak away for a quick workout.
4) You’ll sleep better than a baby
I’ve never been a sound sleeper; it seems the worries of the day always wait until my head hits the pillow to surface in my mind. But since the birth of my daughter, exercise has been a key ingredient in helping me getting enough shuteye (whenever explosive, 3 am diapers and teething are also at rest!). The American College of Sports Medicine says that exercise can help regulate circadian rhythms in our brains and can have effects similar to sleeping pills in troubled sleepers. If you ask me, that’s a great reason to break a sweat.
5) You’ll (want to) have sex again
Since you had kids, how many times have you turned down sex simply because you didn’t feel good about your body? Working out and leading an active life can help fight negative body image. Not only does regular exercise make the hormone serotonin, which helps you feel better overall (and often times sexier!), but it also makes you look better (and, once again, sexier!). While sex itself may not be enough exercise to keep your body completely toned, the extra calorie burn can’t hurt. Two birds, one stone? Perhaps!
6) You’ll save money on therapy (maybe)
The effects of depression and anxiety on anyone can be debilitating. And sometimes even the happiest parents can struggle with these issues from time to time (especially post-partum mamas). If you need a boost without a prescription, exercise, a natural mood elevator, just might do the trick. The endorphins emitted during and after a workout session are just as good as most anti-depressants. Imagine that!
7) You’ll feel like a kid again
One of the best things you can do for your children is play with them. Even though we all know this, and doing so makes us feel good about ourselves as parents, it can be difficult to muster the energy day in and day out. But it’s amazing that exerting energy actually gives us more of it. When you’re tired working out may not be the first thing on your mind. But knowing that even a quick workout will leave you energized rather than exhausted is definitely encouraging. And the extra calories you will burn while playing is an added bonus.
8) You’ll be able to reach for the stars … or that sippy cup on the top shelf
Flexibility goes hand in hand with almost every reason on this list. Yoga and deep stretching are some of the best ways to increase flexibility, but even gentle stretching can lead to major improvements. Not only will being more flexible enable you to move more comfortably day to day and ease minor aches and pains, it will allow you to play with your children more freely — and certainly make sex more appealing if you can, you know, bend and twist without pulling a muscle. It also may even aid in sleeping if one reason you had trouble catching Z’s was lack of comfort due to muscle pain or tightness.