You know you should exercise. It’s been ingrained in your head since you were a kid — you can probably still hear the haunting shrieks of your parents yelling, “Turn off that Mario game and go outside!” But it’s still a big chore for a lot of people. Exercising often isn’t fun. It’s painful, it’s time-consuming, and the gym is always crowded. Simply put, it’s a pain in the ass. And yet, you still know you should do it — if for no reason other than to ease your conscience.
Here are five exciting benefits of regular exercise … besides getting in shape.
1. Reverse bone loss
For older men, bone loss can be a real issue. Though conditions like osteoporosis and calcium deficiency are commonly associated with women, it’s a problem that people of both sexes experience and gets worse as we age. The good news is researchers from the University of Missouri discovered activities like weight-lifting and jumping exercises can actually reverse bone loss by facilitating cellular growth. According to ScienceDaily, 2 million men suffer from bone loss, and an additional 16 million have low bone mass, so if you’re among that group, a simple lifting regimen may do wonders.
2. Improve brain function
Have you ever had a hard workout and come out on the other end feeling a bit euphoric or with a clearer head? Well, there’s science to back up what you’re experiencing, and it suggests you can actually improve your brain function through simple exercise. This holds especially true for older folks, according to research from the University of Kansas Medical Center.
“Basically, the more exercise you did, the more benefit to the brain you saw,” says Dr. Jeffrey Burns, professor of neurology at the University of Kansas. “Any aerobic exercise was good, and more is better.”
3. Fewer bathroom trips
Another affliction that seems to hit older men as they age is the need to urinate more frequently. It becomes such a problem that many men are constantly awoken at night with the need to go to the restroom. It’s caused by a few different things and is commonly known in medical circles as nocturia.
The good news is that exercise can actually stave off the problem, meaning fewer trips to the bathroom. According to a study from Stritch School of Medicine, men in the incident group who exercised for one or more hours per week showed improvement ranging from 13% to 34% over men who did not exercise at all. If you’re experiencing nocturia hardships, a little physical activity may be the key to fewer bathroom breaks.
4. Reverse alcohol-related damage
You know all that drinking — whether it’s current, or back during your college days — is not good for you. In fact, studies have linked excess drinking and alcohol abuse to brain damage. It’s a serious matter, although one that mainstream society doesn’t seem to take all that seriously. The good news is research from the University of Colorado has shown a relatively easy way to reverse that damage: exercise.
“We found that for people who drink a lot and exercise a lot, there was not a strong relationship between alcohol and white matter,” says Hollis Karoly, a doctoral student in CU-Boulder’s psychology and neuroscience department, who led the study. “But for people who drink a lot and don’t exercise, our study showed the integrity of white matter is compromised in several areas of the brain. It basically means white matter is not moving messages between areas of the brain as efficiently as normal.”
So, after a night of binge drinking, do your brain a favor and hit the treadmill.
5. Makes you smarter
Yes, we’ve covered improved brain function, but let’s expand on that a bit. Can exercise actually make you smarter? The answer is yes, according to some researchers. And part of it has to do with that expanded cognitive ability discussed earlier.
There are a couple of studies floating around that have shown a link between cardiovascular exercise and better brain function. We’re talking about memory improvement, increased attention span — the whole shebang. What that means is that you can grasp and retain more information, making you a knowledge sponge.
If there’s one thing to take away from all of this, it’s that your brain loves exercise. So feed the need.