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7 invisible benefits of consistent exercise

Not just weight loss, working out regularly ushers in benefits invisible to the eye, such as better stamina, increased positivity and better sleep

Exercise releases endorphins that help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve an overall sense of well-being. (Unsplash/Gabe Pierce)

By Anupama Shivacharya

LAST PUBLISHED 10.03.2024  |  08:00 AM IST

Most people start working out because they think it’s time to lose some weight and get fit or when a medical professional has warned them to start taking their health seriously. While these are good reasons to start, the physical changes only start showing six to eight weeks after consistent exercise and nutritional changes in diet. Working out regularly has plenty of other benefits that are ignored. But often, we tend to regard an aesthetic goal as the only valid outcome: your workout is successful because you look leaner.

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This limiting perspective can lead us to have an unhealthy relationship with food, starving ourselves or going on binge trips if all doesn't go according to plan. As a health coach, I encourage my clients to focus on the inconspicuous changes to help them stay on track, especially because looking fit or muscular takes time and patience.  If you are exercising regularly, here's a list of seven intangible benefits to note.  

  1. Release of happy hormones: There is a reason people turn to workouts or physical activities when feeling down. One of the best ways to hack your happy hormones is to exercise, which releases endorphins. This neurotransmitter plays a role in alleviating pain and stress. If you work out with a buddy or a community, it further helps produce oxytocin, aka the love hormone, which adds to an overall sense of well-being. 
  2. Better sleep at night: Better sleep is an immediate benefit most people observe from day one of their fitness journey. 30 minutes of aerobic activity, in particular, helps increase the period of deep sleep. It's during the night that your body is recuperating and producing the growth hormone. Deep sleep is also necessary for strengthening the immune system as well as for proper functioning of brain. 
  3. Increase in stamina and energy levels: Exercise helps increase blood circulation in your body, which means your muscles and organs receive a good supply of oxygen and nutrients. This leads to higher energy levels in your day-to-day activities. While this change is visible within one or two weeks of working out, your lung capacity gets better with time and consistency, leading to a further increase in energy levels. 
  4. Reduced food cravings: When you work out, your body temperature increases, which acts as a biological signal to curb food cravings. Additionally, most people also follow a healthier diet that includes a good mix of proteins and fats along with carbs. This leads to reduced cravings for sweets or munching on snacks. A win-win!  
  5. Glowing skin and feeling lighter: One of the first things you’ll notice, one week into exercising, is how light you feel when you walk or go about your daily activities. Not just that. The sweat from the workouts will give your skin a natural glow, and the body responds positively to movement with a boost of collagen – this makes you look younger. 
  6. Decrease in stress levels: When you are stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol as a survival mechanism. This leads to weight gain, drastic increase or decrease in appetite, shallow mouth breathing and other symptoms of stress. Interestingly, working out is also a type of (physical) stress to the body and it produces the same hormone. Over time, however, your body produces less cortisol because of consistent exercise, making you more resistant to daily stress. 
  7. Increase in focus and productivity: Physical activity improves cognitive function and enhances mental clarity. You will experience sharper focus, improved memory, and better overall cognitive performance as a result of consistent exercise. This, in turn, will make you more productive at work and other areas of life. 

Anupama Shivacharya is an independent journalist and calisthenics coach based in Bengaluru. 

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