The Hidden Benefits of Exercise
Exercise does your body good almost instantly, research shows. Here's mega motivation to get slimmer, stronger, healthier -- fast!
Instant Benefits of Exercise
We've got some happy news that will rev up your workout routine: The moment you head out on your run, launch into your Spinning class, or start your Pilates session, the benefits of exercise kick in. "We see changes in the body within seconds," Your heart rate increases, and blood is delivered to your muscles. You start burning calories for fuel. And you get an almost immediate mood boost.
As little as 30 minutes of cardio three to five days a week will add six years to your life, according to research at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. Do that plus a couple of days of resistance training and you'll not only live longer but also look younger, feel happier, have more energy, and stay slim. Ready for some inspiration for getting your move on? Keep reading for our timeline on the quick and long-lasting benefits of regular exercise.
As You Work Out...
Your lungs are getting stronger. When you do cardio, your brain sends signals to them to help you breathe faster and deeper, delivering extra oxygen to your muscles.
Your motivation is at its peak. Thanks to a flood of endorphins, which trigger the classic runner's high, you feel psyched and energized.
You're fighting flab. "During typical cardio exercise, your body taps mainly fat for fuel," Olson says.
FIT TIP: Push yourself to go harder. The more intensely you do aerobic activity and the longer you do it, the more efficiently your body uses oxygen, and this boosts its fat-blasting power throughout your workout, Olson says.
Within One Hour of Exercise...
You're protecting yourself against colds, flu, you name it. Exercise elevates your level of immunoglobulins, which are proteins that help bolster your immune system and ward off infection. "Every sweat session you do can help strengthen your immune function for about 24 hours," says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise.
You're feeling zen. Mood-enhancing chemicals, like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, flood your brain for a couple of hours post-exercise and for up to a day if you've competed in an endurance event, like a marathon. Stress? What stress?
FIT TIP: Do intervals, on the elliptical or the treadmill or while running outdoors, and you may feel even happier. Women who did interval training in a recent study by Olson had a bigger boost in mood immediately following their workout than those who worked out at a steady pace.
You're blasting calories, even at rest. "For every 100 calories you burn during your workout, you can expect to burn 15 calories after," Bryant says. If you went on a three-mile run, you would torch about 300 calories, which could mean zapping an extra 45 later.
FIT TIP: To turbo-charge your calorie-incinerating quotient, strength-train at least twice a week. It will charge your metabolism so that you'll continue to burn calories for up to 38 hours, according to a study from Ohio University in Athens.
You're hungry. Now that you've burned through your energy stores, your blood sugar levels are dropping. Just how low they go depends on how much you ate or drank before your workout and how long and intensely you exercised, says Kristine Clark, PhD, RD, director of sports nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.
FIT TIP: If you exercised on an empty or almost-empty stomach, you're probably feeling light-headed or even nauseated or headachy. Your immediate food fix: A high-carb nosh, like a banana or half a bagel, will refuel you and kick-start your recovery. And don't forget to drink plenty of water with your snack. Intense or long workouts can leave you dehydrated.
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