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Female Jogger on Coleman Avunue in Morro Bay, CA 5-2-07 - Photo by Mike Baird http://bairdphotos.com Canon 20D 100-400mm IS lens handheld from an outrigger canoe.

Most of us know that exercise helps manage and prevent diseases, burn calories, and lose weight.  Some of the lesser known benefits of working out on a regular basis are just as important and essential to your health and go beyond fat and calorie burning.  By getting just 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, you can experience the many benefits of physical activity.

Enhances Mood: Exercising several times a week, such as taking a brisk walk or going for a swim, can help boost your mood.  When you work out, your body releases the brain chemical endorphin, which is responsible for creating a happy, euphoric feeling.  Because exercise releases endorphins, it also helps alleviate symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

Manages Stress: Working up a sweat increases production of norepinephrine, a chemical that manages the brain’s response to stress.  In addition to enhancing concentrations of stress managing chemicals, exercise is a good way to clear your mind and forget about the cares of the moment.

Boosts Energy: If you find that you are usually exhausted after engaging in normal activities, such as going to work or the grocery store, consider incorporating exercise into your routine.  Because physical activity delivers oxygen and nutrients to your heart and lungs, it helps those organs work more efficiently and, thus, results in you having more energy.  If you suffer from the mid-day slump more often than not, try to incorporate a walk or a light workout into your lunch period.  It will help energize you for the remainder of the day and help you lose weight.

Promotes Sleep: Exercise promotes good sleep hygiene.  Working out on a regular basis will help you fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep.  For those of you who have trouble falling asleep or cannot stay asleep, try to work out at least five days a week.  Be sure to avoid working out too close to bedtime, as it will give you an unwelcome boost of energy that will be difficult to shake.

Prevents Cognitive Decline/Sharpens Memory: Working out may even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s.  When exercising, your body produces chemicals that support the hippocampus.  The hippocampus is the part of your brain that sharpens memory and increases brainpower.  Cardiovascular exercise is linked to the production of cells responsible for learning and memory.  Exercise may also assist in creating new brain cells, resulting in quicker decision making and clearer thinking.

In addition to these benefits, working out can be fun.  If you have not been engaging in ample amounts of physical activity, try to incorporate exercise into your routine in fun ways.  For those of you who already work out on a regular basis, consider trying something new to keep the spark in your workout.  Either way you slice it, you will lose weight and reap in the numerous benefits of an active lifestyle.

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