The Secret Rewards of Exercise: 7 Key Benefits of Working Out for Women
Working out isn’t just about losing weight and toning up. It’s about improving and maintaining your overall mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Women that work out regularly reap some pretty amazing rewards. If you’re new to exercising on the regular, some of these may surprise you: improving your skin, sleep routine and mental health is just the start.
There’s plenty of reasons why you should be incorporating exercise into your daily or weekly routine. Here are some of our favorites.
Build and Strengthen Muscle: Stay Fit and Retain Muscle Mass
One of the biggest benefits of regular exercise for women? Building and strengthening muscle. As you age, not only does your body have a harder time building muscle, it also tends to lose the muscle strength it already has.
Related to this is sarcopenia, a common condition affecting 10% of adults over 50. As Healthline.com notes, sarcopenia causes you to lose 3% of your muscle strength every year on average after middle age. In fact, some research shows that this can start as early as 30. For women, this would mean losing up to 15% of their total body muscle mass per decade by middle age.
Don’t worry, it’s not all bad! Yes, the natural process of aging can be pinpointed as the most common cause of sarcopenia, but other factors do accelerate muscle loss. As Healthline notes, one of the strongest factors is the disuse of muscle. This causes you to lose muscle faster and in turn, become weaker. And what better natural remedy than exercise? It’s suggested that the best way to battle sarcopenia is to keep your muscles active.
Whatever your age, the benefits of maintaining and increasing muscle mass are plentiful. It’s a key part of staying fit in general, and can help with everything from improving bone density and preventing injury, to reducing your risk of certain diseases.
Increased muscle mass can also improve your endurance, which helps you torch more calories each time you work out. Personal trainer and fitness whiz Dean Somerset explains this perfectly; having more muscle lets you do more stuff and work harder. Although adding extra muscle alone won’t help you to burn many more calories (which is what some people assume), it can help you work harder and longer, which is the key to burning more cals.
If you’re a yogi or pilates guru, you’re already on your way! These types of workouts and other strength and resistance training exercises are great for lengthening and building lean muscle, as well as keeping skin taut.
Get Glowing Skin: Sweat it Out
We all love that natural post-workout glow. Well, regular exercise can actually work wonders for your skin, even after your beloved post-workout radiance fades.
This is because working out gets your heart pumping and increases circulation, giving your skin a good dose of oxygenated blood. Upping your blood flow helps to nourish your skin cells as your blood is carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout your body, including your skin. This is one of the many reasons why exercise makes you look and feel vibrant, from the inside out.
Another way working out can help your skin? Sweat! That’s right, sweat can actually help your pores flush out oil, dirt and bacteria that can lead to spots or blemishes. Just be sure to have a good scrub after exercising to wash away all the bad stuff you’ve worked so hard to sweat out.
Those with skin conditions such as rosacea can experience flare-ups after exercise, so if this applies to you just be sure to take some simple precautions when working out. Maybe this means working out in a cool environment or applying cool compresses after your workout: whatever you find works best for you.
Improve Mental Health: Relieve Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Exercise is known to work wonders for mental health. It can help with everything from boosting mental clarity to relieving stress: an all-round mental health virtuoso so to speak.
You may have heard that when you work out, neurotransmitters called endorphins are released that act as a sort of feel-good painkiller. The amounts released vary with the type of exercise and intensity of workout you are doing. Studies have found that those who did an hour of HIIT training experienced a significant increase in endorphin release compared with those who completed an hour of less demanding exercise. In fact, studies have found that it may not even be the boosted endorphin levels that make you feel oh-so-good after your workout after all. They suggest that although endorphin levels are higher after something like a run, they can’t pass through the blood-brain barrier. This means that they probably don’t have that much to do with experiencing that beloved exercise high.
Either way, exercise also releases a chemical concoction of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which all help with mood regulation. As Healthline suggests, regular exercise can positively impact serotonin levels in your brain, which in turn boosts your mood and overall sense of wellbeing.
As for stress and anxiety? On a basic psychological level, exercise is a tried and tested way to break the cycle of stress and worry. It helps you to relax your muscles, relieve tension, and enjoy a mental break from the cycles of negative thoughts that come with stress and anxiety. On a more scientific level, some studies suggest that exercise could even help to ward off panic attacks. The idea is that exercise can act as a sort of ‘exposure treatment’ to similar symptoms experienced during panic attacks such as increased heart and respiratory rates. You can then learn to associate those symptoms with safety instead of danger.
Sleep Better: Kickstart the Science Behind Beauty Sleep
According to The National Sleep Foundation, exercise (especially in the morning or afternoon) works wonders for improving the quality of your sleep. As well as tiring you out so your body craves a restful sleep, during exercise, your body temperature is raised a few degrees. When your body temperature drops back down later in the day, this can trigger feelings of sleepiness and help you doze off easily. Think of it as your temperature-sensitive body clock.
So, why is getting good quality sleep so important? The body repairs itself in many ways while you sleep, and a good sleep can do everything from enhancing your memory to decreasing bodily inflammation. As Healthline suggests, the majority of human growth hormone (HGH) is released when you sleep, a hormone which plays a key role in growth, body composition, cell repair, metabolism and more. And if you get a bad sleep? This can reduce the amount of HGH your body produces. Getting enough deep sleep is one of the best ways to enhance your HGH production in the long term.
You’ve probably heard someone say they need their ‘beauty sleep’. Well, they wouldn’t be wrong. There’s repairing and restorative science behind the magic. As Dr. Mikhail Varshavski notes, “sleep is a regenerative process where we heal and where our neurons build strong connections”. This is intricately tied to HGH production. Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum goes on to note that, “optimizing growth hormone keeps us young… our muscles toned, and our skin at its full thickness. Think of it as a healthy facelift for your entire body”. Hence the phrase, ‘getting your beauty sleep’!
Boost Immunity: Stay Healthy and Fight Disease
Developing a better immune system is another amazing reward you can reap from regular exercise.
Experts like Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin are sceptical of the fitness and wellness fads which claim that exercise straight-up detoxifies the body. It is the kidneys and colon that get rid of the body’s waste: exercise’s role in this process is yet unclear.
Exercise is linked to immunity as it is part of an overall balanced lifestyle. As Dr Matzkin notes, exercise, eating healthy and drinking lots of water are all important to detoxifying the body because they enable our body to do what it is intended to do. So, much like a healthy diet, regular exercise can contribute to general tip-top health and in turn to a healthy immune system.
More specifically, some studies suggest that exercise may contribute even more directly to boosting immunity by promoting good circulation. This is because it allows the immune system’s cells and substances to ‘move through the body freely and do their job efficiently’.
Strengthening your immune system helps you to stave off the common cold, the flu, and even more serious, long-term health conditions more efficiently.
Beat The Cramps: Exercising Throughout Your Cycle
For some, your time of the month may seem like the last time you would want to hop on a treadmill or head to a barre class. But actually, it’s absolutely ok to exercise during your period, and could even provide some pretty cool benefits.
Believe it or not, you may find that you can exercise at a greater intensity during your period than at other times of the month, partly due to changes in hormone levels. There can be a few points in the month where you feel particularly sluggish; surprisingly, this is a great time to get up and get moving.
For some women, this sluggishness is experienced in week 3 and/or 4 of their menstrual cycle where estrogen levels peak around ovulation and then fall quickly after ovulation (along with other hormones fluctuating). Working out at this time can help with premenstrual symptoms (PMS) because as noted, exercise can positively impact your mood and overall sense of wellbeing.
As for exercising during your period? Getting a good dose of mood-boosting hormones is just the start. Experts have found that some women have fewer painful cramps during their period if they exercise regularly.
That said, it’s always important to stay in tune with your body so you notice any drastic changes. Exercising too much or too intensely can cause you to miss your period or stop your periods all together. But this is most common in athletes and those who train intensely on the regular: this doesn’t usually apply to those who have a more typical, moderate exercise routine. Just keep it light, and don’t try to exert yourself more than your body is telling you too.
7. Reduce Cellulite: Smooth Those Lumps and Bumps
Let’s get one thing straight: cellulite is not simply a buildup of excess fat. As Dr Robyn Gmyrek notes, that lumpy and bumpy appearance is due to fat cells pushing up against the skin over fibrous connective tissue bands.
Everything from genetics to gender can have a part in determining how much cellulite a person has. Unfortunately, women are more prone to cellulite because of specific hormones (like higher levels of estrogen) and the way our fat cells and connective tissues are arranged.
So, can exercise help? Yes! Although it can’t get rid of cellulite as some exercise videos or luxury lotions falsely promise (that’s basically impossible), it can certainly improve the appearance of it. As Dr Gmyrek notes, regular strength-training and cardio builds and tones your muscles which can decrease the appearance of cellulite.
So why try all those expensive lotions and potions or even surgery (which also doesn’t provide a permanent fix), when you can try an all-natural remedy for free?
Although working out to look your best is great, there’s so much more to gain aside from a toned tummy and sculpted arms. The benefits of working out for women go way beyond the waistline. Exercise can improve and enhance every part of your body and mind, from your immune system to your mental health. Now that you have even more reasons to squeeze exercise into your day, it’s time to get moving on the road to a better you.