What motivates Australians to eject from the sofa and exercise?
University of Victoria researchers posed this question and found that for women, ‘appearance’ served as the number one prod. For men it was ‘being affiliated’ with something larger than themselves. Think clubs and sporting teams.
But collectively, we could be missing one of the biggest drawcards to drawing a sweat.
Namely, that exercise makes every part of our bodies work better, from our brains right down to our bones. Lacing up sneakers is to the body as chocolate is to the taste buds – the sweetest of things. (And sure, we’re talking about the benefits here, rather than the sweat required in getting active.)
“The main effects of exercise come via cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health. These benefits include improved brain blood flow,” says Dr. James Donnelly from Southern Cross University. “Also, better muscle tone and bone health decreases the risks of falls and fractures that can lead to inactivity and social isolation – thereby reducing your happiness levels.”
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A 2013 study from the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience confirms this brain-energising effect. University of Texas researchers examined people over 50 who punched out time on a stationary gym bike or treadmill for one hour, three times a week for 12 weeks.
The study found the exercisers’ brains showed increased blood flow to a region called the anterior cingulate, revealing a higher metabolic rate and greater activity between neurons.
“Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance,” says lead researcher Sandra Chapman. “These findings should motivate adults of all ages to start exercising.”
What’s the best type of exercise?
Whether you run, hit the gym or do a yoga class, the most important thing is to make sure it's something you'll enjoy and something that you'll commit to.
“Finding something you’re willing to do on a regular basis is essential," says James Donnelly. "Three brief, high intensity interval training workouts weekly can be sufficient to maintain good physical health.
"But also consider the brain and mood benefits from long distance or activities such as walking, cycling or running. While you’re taking a long walk, for instance, you’ve got time to reflect, stop the internal chatter about life’s challenges, chat with a workout partner or connect with nature.”
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