Looking to get more exercise in 2017 or simply trying to motivate yourself to be active when the weather’s bad? Whether it’s walking briskly to the shops or cycling 20 miles, the benefits of getting physical are indisputable.
There’s plenty of research to suggest that working out leads to better sleep, though scientists aren’t sure exactly why. All we know is that it can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer.
This could be because exercise raises temperature and the subsequent post-work-out drop promotes sleep, or that it causes a shift in your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal sleep clock) or simply that being active reduces anxiety and allows you to drift off worry-free.
About a third of over 65s fall every year, which is why it’s so important to get active in order to improve balance, mobility and joint health. French researchers studied 706 women aged 75 to 85 and found that those who stuck with a two-year exercise programme to improve their balance cut their risk of being injured in a fall by around 20 per cent.
Range of movement exercises such as tai chi and yoga are excellent for balance, flexibility and increasing the movement in your joints and muscles. And take a few minutes every morning to move your joints through their full range of motion with wrist, ankle, knee and shoulder circles in both directions.
Increasingly, experts are making the link between exercise and alertness. In 2014, researchers at Stanford University in the US studied 176 college students and found that walking boosted creative output by an average of 60 per cent.
Meanwhile, last March, a study in the journal Neurology revealed that older adults who regularly engaged in moderate-to-intense exercise stayed sharper and showed a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who didn’t. In fact, sedentary seniors’ brains were a full ten years older.
Physical exercise is one of the best things you can do to manage stress. Even a quick walk in the park can work wonders. In 2014 researchers at the University of Michigan found that group nature walks reduced depression, improved well-being, and lowered perceived stress.
The positive effects may come from the feel-good endorphins and other helpful anti-stress hormones that are released when you get moving. Some studies have indicated that exercise can be as effective as a treatment for depression as drugs and cognitive behavioural therapy.
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