6 Exercise Benefits You Won’t Believe

Think you know all of the reasons you should be exercising? Most people can easily rattle off the big ones, like weight loss and maintenance, disease prevention, increased energy and improved mood. Some may even be aware of the less publicized perks, like the fact that physical activity can promote longevity and builds and maintains muscle tissue, which helps protect against bone loss. But there are a bunch of lesser-known benefits that you may have never heard before. Read on for six more good reasons to get off the couch.

Spice up your sex life. All of the benefits of exercise—like an increased blood flow, improved stamina, better body image—can help improve your sex life, too. Exercise has also been shown to increase arousal in women and reduce the risk of impotence for men.

Increase your immunity. Moderate exercise is one of the best medicines for cold and flu prevention. A number of studies show that people who exercise regularly get fewer colds and use fewer sick days than those who are sedentary. Exercise boosts immunity in a number of ways: It clears bacteria from the lungs, reducing your risk for catching a cold or other illness; speeds up the delivery of disease-fighting antibodies throughout the body; temporarily increases body temperature, which may prevent bacterial growth and also allows the body to fight infection more effectively; and slows the release of stress hormones, which can increase the risk of illnesses. (Very intense exercise might have the opposite effect on immunity).

Boost your brain power. From increasing your ability to learn to helping you be a more efficient multi-tasker, exercise can help protect brain health and improve brain function. (Check out Get Sweaty, Get Smart for more on the brain-boosting benefits of exercise.)

Get better sleep. Struggling to get your 7 to 9 hours a night? Aim to get 150 minutes of activity per week—this amount has been shown to improve sleep quality by 65 percent, according to a study in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity. Exercise also seems to ease symptoms of sleep-related conditions, such as sleep apnea.

But time your workouts carefully—working out too close to bedtime can actually interfere with sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends exercising at least three hours before bedtime.

Increase your pain tolerance. A review of studies done by German researchers found that athletes have a higher pain tolerance than non-athletic but still active people. The point at which the two groups began to experience pain (what’s called pain threshold) is similar, but the athletes were better able to tolerate it. I’ve always believed that regular exercise can help make you mentally tough as well as physically stronger.

Balance your hormones. Researchers recently discovered that we have different types of fat in the body—white fat cells (what we refer to as body fat) store fat and brown fat cells burn fat. Of course, you want to have more brown fat cells than white, and it seems that exercise may help. According to an animal study out of Harvard University, exercise increases the production of a newly discovered hormone called irisin, which helps transform white fat cells to brown fat cells, allowing mice to burn more fat. Researchers aren’t sure if the hormone works the same way in our bodies, but you already have so many good reasons to get moving, why wait?

To reap all the benefits of exercise, you have to focus on all the factors of fitness. Use this worksheet to create the ultimate workout plan.

Why do you exercise?

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