One of my new years resolution was to lose weight and exercise more. Two and half weeks into the new year and I had pretty much stopped exercising. Luckily I have an accountability partner (my friend Victor) and he pushed me to get back on track and gave me the wonderful quote to the left by “Elle Woods from Legally Blonde”.
That got my mind wondering about exercising. Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you start exercising? The changes to your body physique, muscles, the mind and the heart? Well in this post we are going to explore just that.
They say exercise is like taking a magical pill for your brain, and if there were ever a drug that could do for your health everything that exercise can it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.
So Why Is Exercise So Good For Us?
One of the core habits practiced by the most successful people is exercising. Have you ever wondered why? In his book “The Power of Habit” Charles Duhigg talks about what are known as Keystone habits. These are the habits that if practiced, developed and applied influence change in every aspect of our lives. Exercising is a keystone habit, which is why anyone looking to develop self-discipline regularly goes to the gym or does some form of exercise.
So we all know the physical benefits of exercise right, you look better, you lose weight, you become lean, you gain muscle and generally you become fit. These changes are easily observable by the naked eye. However, the benefits of exercising aren’t just skin deep.
Most people who exercise will observe that they are happier, more motivated and less depressed. This is why exercise has been described as the miracle drug and has been recommended as a treatment for depression, insomnia, memory loss, alzheimer’s and parkinson’s disease among others.
The reason for this is that the body naturally produces hormones while exercising and these hormones are serotonin, endorphins and a protein known as Brain-Derived-Neurotropic-Factor (BDNF). Each of these hormones in their own way helps reduce stress levels, lift someone’s mood, aids in better sleep, improves learning and also leads to increase confidence.
When you start exercising especially for the first time or after a long break, you’ll feel more alert and energized. Because ramping up your heart rate means a boost in overall flow and oxygen to the brain. This releases a special brain cell called Dopamine which is responsible for motivation. If you’ve ever felt tired or lazy and don’t feel like doing anything, that’s because your experiencing a dopamine deficit.
Dopamine is responsible for our motivation and attention and it’s responsible for the feeling of satisfaction when we accomplish something, it makes you want to do things and it reassures you that the thing was worth doing. So if you’re experiencing a dopamine deficit you can find it hard to get things done because you’re not getting enough fulfilments to justify doing them. But whenever you exercise you directly increase the amount of dopamine in your blood, and instead of feeling tired and worn out you suddenly feel motivated and energized. We’ll talk more about this later but first let’s look at the physical effects of exercise.
The Physical Effects Of Exercise
The physical effects of exercise may not be observed within a few weeks of working out, chances are even after a month of working out there will be little visible results. However, throughout the period of time you are working out and exercising, biological changes take place whether you can see them or not.
🌱 Increased Energy
For a start, a few weeks after starting a cardio routine, you will notice that you have increased energy due to a rise in metabolism and mitochondria. One of the biggest misconceptions of exercise is that exercise causes weight loss, no exercise doesn’t cause weight loss, it causes muscle gain. And since muscle have mitochondria and mitochondria burn energy.
Mitochondria are parts of your cells that convert carbs, fats, and proteins into fuel that your muscles uses to do their job. After six to eight weeks, research has shown that people can increase their mitochondria by up to 50%. With more mitochondria in your cells, you will notice a change in your fitness. For instance, you can easily climb flights of stairs that would have previously left you feeling like you just ran a half marathon.
After a month or so your muscles will start to grow and get stronger. While this might not be obviously visible you will feel the strength in your muscles when you work out. Here the increase in metabolism is even higher, Muscle cells need a lot of energy, which means they burn a lot of calories, in fact they burn more calories than fat cells even when you’re not exercising.
So the time you spend working out, reaps benefits long after you stop working out. This means you can literally slouch on your couch watching TV or Netflix and still be burning fat, although take this with a grain of salt.
🌱 20% Increase In Your Overall VO2 Max
According to the U.S. national science of medicine, if you consistently keep exercise after a period of six months, mainly concentrating on cardio. You can expect a 20% increase in your overall VO2 max. VO2 max is often used as a fitness indicator, it measures the rate at which your body can transport oxygen to your muscles for fuel. So basically a higher VO2 max means, you should be able to run faster and longer in a shorter time span. So a 20% increase in your VO2 max, should mean that you can run about 20% further in the same amount of time.
So this means that if you can run a mile in 10 minutes, a 20% increase in your VO2 max should mean that you can now run 1.2 miles in a 10-minute period or 1 mile in about 8 minutes.
🌱 Increases The Size Of Your Heart
Finally regular exercise increases the size of your heart, and eventually strengthens it. When exercising your heart rate increases and pumps more blood than it normally would, in the process the muscles in your heart are strengthened, which reduces the chance of getting a heart attack. This usually happens after about six months of regularly working out, right about the same time the physical effects of exercise are easily visible.
Non Visible Effects Of Exercise
Some of the physical effects that might not be visible include an increase in blood supply to the brain. The brain thus works more efficiently, and this leads to better focus when doing activities.
🌱 Development Of New Brain Cells
Furthermore, exercising promotes the development of new brain cells, which improves learning and memory. Also during exercise, endorphins are released to counter any stress you might be feeling. Though inaccurate, endorphins are famously known as “feel-good hormones”, and so when they are released into your body, your mood is lifted and you get a sense of happiness. Ultimately any stress you may be experiencing prior to exercise is alleviated, and so when you consistently workout, your body gets a regular supply of endorphins and dopamine, hence leaving you supercharged and energized to take on the day.
🌱 Better Sleep
Another positive effect of exercising on your brain is that you get better sleep. The path leading to better sleep and reduced insomnia through exercise cannot be accurately traced. However, restlessness and sleep is usually caused by depression and anxiety. Exercising serves to reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety through the release of endorphins and dopamine. These result in the symptoms of insomnia being negated, and hence you should get better sleep.
Additionally, when one works out just before going to bed, the temperature drop experienced after exercise could help one fall asleep. Also exercising in the afternoon or early evenings can result in better sleep as well. Our bodies operate on a biological clock called a circadian rhythm, and since insomnia is caused by a skewed circadian rhythm, exercise can help fix our biological clock resulting in better sleep as well.
A Final Thought
In the short run, exercising lifts your mood because of the release of endorphins and moderate levels of serotonin. The constant release of these hormones makes you feel good about yourself and happy, which amazingly also increases your confidence.
How amazing is that?!
This is because as you exercise, even without seeing any physical results at the beginning, you get a better body feel of yourself. By making the decision to get healthier and proactively trying to get fit and in shape you become proud and feel great and awesome about yourself, and hence resulting in the confidence boost.
Ultimately, when physical changes can be seen, your confidence explodes! and in fact some people have attested exercise to single-handedly changing their life and mentality towards life in general.
Exercise gives you a renewed sense of worth, it makes you feel great and happy about yourself, it improves your confidence to the level that you will finally have the courage to ask out that girl/guy you always liked. It can and will improve your grades, it can also save you money by cutting down on trips to the hospital every now and then. And also on money spent buying prescription drugs.
So exercising is clearly good for our physical and mental health, and by exercising for just three hours a week consistently, in all probability you’re going to live longer than you otherwise would. And that longer life will likely feel more happy and fulfilling.
Thank you guys so much for reading this.
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With that said, thanks for watching and I’ll see you in the next one.
Here are resources I highly recommend for more reading on this topic…
🌱 The Power of Habit Book by Charles Duhigg
🌱 Mitochondrion from Wikipedia
🌱 VO2 Max from The Science of Fitness
🌱This Is What REALLY Happens As You Start Exercising (Animated) by Practical Wisdom
🌱 The Top 10 Benefits of Regular Exercise from Healthline