Look, we get it. Sometimes it takes every single ounce of your energy and willpower just to get off the couch and get a glass of water. And as we’ve wrote about previously, if you really want to move the weight loss needle, you should focus on diet more than exercise because it’s much more efficient to reduce the intake of calories rather than to try to burn them off. Still, movement—let’s not even call it exercise—can be a great addition to any weight loss plan. Plus, once you’re up and moving around, you’re almost certain to feel better.
The United States Department of Health recommends that people get 150 minutes of movement each week. Nutrisystem makes it even easier. We call it My Daily 3: three times a day, move around for at least 10 minutes. Take the stairs. Walk to get a cup of coffee. Maybe sit at your desk and do some gentle stretches and isometrics. Park at the far end of the grocery store parking lot and push your cart the whole way. But there are other reasons to get moving, some of which may surprise you. Here are three surprising ways exercise makes you feel better.
Reason #1: You’ll Improve Your Memory.
People often report thinking more clearly after a workout. It makes sense: the blood and oxygen are flowing. But the hippocampus, the part of the brain integral to learning and memory, is especially active during exercise. Some studies have even shown that aerobic exercise can reverse shrinkage of the hippocampus.1,2 We’re not saying you have to train for a marathon, either. Something as simple and pleasant as an after-dinner stroll with a friend produces benefits. Give it a try.
Reason #2: You’ll Sleep Better.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), exercise improves sleep. Why? Well, a little exercise can make you pleasantly sleepy. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity has been shown to promote better quality sleep in adults by decreasing the amount of time they lie awake in bed.3
“While longer or more vigorous workouts can lead to more physical improvements, just 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day can alleviate anxiety and help you sleep better at night,” says NSF. Sleeping better can also give you the energy to get moving more often. NSF recommends trying out exercise at different times of the day (morning, afternoon and within a few hours of sleep) to determine the time that works best for you. 4
Reason #3: Your Mood Will Improve.
According to Mayo Clinic, “Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms.” The reason: Exercise has been shown to release feel-good endorphins and can also help take your mind off of daily stressors. Experts at Mayo Clinic explain that these benefits may only stick around if you make physical activity a long-term lifestyle change. That’s why they recommend finding activities that you love and enjoy.5