A run a day keeps your health at bay: the benefits of exercise

In an age when you’d be hard pressed to find someone whose life isn’t dominated by technology (laptops, phones, TVs), fast food restaurants and a relentless study & work ethic (which often involves sitting at a desk all day), reflecting on the incredible benefits of exercise wouldn’t go amiss. Add to this the fact that we’ve all spent a year on our backsides, and this becomes an absolute necessity.

The physical benefits of taking exercise are almost limitless: it reduces your risk of getting serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease or strokes (by up to 50% in most cases) and helps us maintain a healthy body weight without having to watch what we eat.

And the great thing with exercise is that it’s free medicine. You don’t have to spend a fortune on it (unless you want to go to that savvy gym); going for a run outside- especially when you listen to a good podcast or some up-beat tunes- does wonders. A report in the Guardian last year showed that you don’t even need to do long amounts of exercise to feel the effects: one minute has an impact, even if that’s just sprinting up the stairs.

Doing physical exercise doesn’t just help you get fit or lose weight. It has a marked effect on your brain. Multiple studies have shown it helps memory, improves concentration, boosts creativity and maximises productivity. It can be particularly important for young people who are studying: one research conducted in the Netherlands showed exercise – no matter in what form - helped significantly improve the attention spans of a group of Dutch school children. Exercise is a must if you're embarking on revision or exams - even if it is just a bit of homework - and your brain needs a gentle push in the right direction.

One of the most important benefits of exercise is that it helps overall mood, partly because endorphins are released. "If exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented," said health promotion consultant Dr Nick Cavill. In a similar vein, doctors during covid began handing out ‘green prescriptions’ to patients suffering from mental-health problems by telling them to take exercise (even just a walk) outside.

A very popular form of exercise to emerge in the past decade (with a spike during lockdown) is Yoga; it’s one of the most effective ways of practicing meditation (which has magical effects on the mind) and building physical strength. Most importantly, it helps the mind to truly stay in the moment (by concentrated deep breathing and body awareness) which is increasingly important in the busy and future-orientated lives we all lead.

In conclusion, whether you’re in need of a mood boost or gush of positivity; would like to keep in physical shape or just need an escape from the itchy feeling of lockdown, take that first step: it’s always worth it.

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