6 “Invisible” Benefits to Exercise and Fitness

Many people gravitate toward exercise because it can bring on welcome changes to your physical appearance – weight loss, firmer, more toned muscles, less body fat….But there are many more benefits from exercise that you can’t see. These “invisible” benefits are just as important, if not more so, than the strictly aesthetic ones.  In fact, one study found that while many people started an exercise program to lose weight and improve their appearance, they continued to exercise because of the benefits to their well-being!

1. Lessen Your Anxiety

Exercise has undeniable effects on your mood, with anxiety reduction key among them. A study by Princeton University researchers revealed that exercising creates new, excitable neurons along with new neurons designed to release the GABA neurotransmitter, which help induce a natural state of calm.  The mood-boosting benefits of exercise occur both immediately after a workout and continue on in the long term.

Exercise also boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. Exercise is also one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression.

2. Boost Your Immune Function

When you exercise, you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of finding an illness before it spreads. This includes (but is certainly not limited to) seasonal colds and influenza.

According to a survey by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, exercising vigorously for at least 2.5 hours each week can reduce your chances of catching the flu.  The survey suggested that 100 cases of flu per 1,000 people could be prevented each year this way.