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The Benefits of Physical Activity: Three Reasons to Get Moving

For more than 20 years, science has proven the benefits of exercise on health. An ever-growing number of doctors are prescribing physical activity to their patients to assuage symptoms related to certain illnesses.

Basketball, hockey, dance, yoga, walking—the central idea is to move regularly so that you feel as healthy in your body as you do in your mind.

Not convinced? These three reasons will make you want to slip into your nicest gear and head outdoors for a run (or finally join your best friend at yoga).

Exercising for Happiness

If you aren’t an athlete, this might leave you skeptical, but it is, in fact, proven. After 15 to 30 minutes of sustained physical effort, the body releases endorphins and dopamine. Thanks to these hormones, your mind and muscles relax, and a feeling of euphoria takes over. Exercise can increase endorphin and dopamine levels by as much as 500%. The result: A huge smile, and way more energy.

Was your last workout at the gym more akin to a visit to a torture chamber than a moment of R&R? You will rarely meet a lover of long-distance running or committed weightlifter who claims to have enjoyed their first few workouts. That’s because the more a physical activity is repeated, the more it becomes enjoyable. Don’t hesitate to get moving again, because soon heading to a workout will be part of your routine, and it’ll be difficult to go without.

Trainers are clear on this: it takes a minimum of five sessions before a new activity truly becomes enjoyable. Many mobile apps are now on the market that can keep you from getting discouraged, so go ahead and try them out!

Exercising to counter stress

Angry at your boss, anxious about upcoming exams, difficulty sleeping while thinking of your different projects? What if you did a bit of exercise to relax? Twenty minutes at medium intensity, three times per week, is enough to have a significant impact on the part of the brain that controls your mood. This time, it’s due to serotonin, a hormone that acts directly on anxiety and stress, not to mention quality of sleep.

The oxygenation of the brain puts you in both a livelier and more relaxed mood. By breathing more deeply, we allow our entire system to release accumulated tension. Some specialists say without hesitation that a regularly practiced sport could be more efficient than some medications for aiding with depression. Whether you do it at home, in the gym or outdoors, physical activity is a way to gift yourself with some precious alone time. Dare to take a break now in order to be more efficient later. And your busy, packed-schedule days are no longer an excuse. Thirty-minute workouts are cropping up everywhere!

Physical activity to live longer…and better

Anne Fabiny, a gerontologist from Harvard University, says that “physical activity is what brings us closest to the fountain of youth.” Indeed, the people who lose their autonomy the fastest are often those who are the most sedentary. Conversely, the more physical activity is sustained, the “better” humans age. Muscle mass remains stable and there is a greater ability to resist illness, injury and falls. Regularly stimulating the body has a direct impact on the cells responsible for bone growth and helps to prevent osteoporosis.

In terms of the body, the effects of exercise are obvious—but practicing a sport regularly also has an impact on the brain. Exercising prevents Alzheimer’s, helps memory function, and generally optimizes cerebral activity. Practicing a sport is also a great way to socialize and make new friends, and an excellent tool for staying young at heart. 

It should be clear by now that exercise is essential to a healthy life, physical fitness and a contented mind. There’s no need to work out intensely every day to see its effects on your daily life. Simply keep in mind that it’s important to stay active, and there are plenty of simple tricks that can be used to integrate exercise more easily to your schedule. Do you live in town? Get off the subway a few stops early and walk the rest of the way. If you are lucky enough to live in the country, head out for a walk at least three times a week.

Don’t hesitate to gear up adequately for the activity you plan to do, even if it’s just speed walking. Good gear can make all the difference, while making the experience far more pleasurable.

This article was written in collaboration with Stephanie Boivin, kinesiologist, private trainer and group course instructor at Ballet Hop and Olympe in Montreal.