It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves in the past. Maybe after a particularly hard session, or when you’re feeling tired and exhausted – why bother exercising? What’s the point in going through all that effort? This thought might also pop into your head if you’re struggling to achieve your goals.
Have you ever been really good, exercised all week, only to stand on the scales and see you’ve put on a couple of pounds? Then you’re faced with what IS the point.
Well, the point of this post is to be a quick little go to guide to remind yourself there isn’t only ONE reason to exercise. Exercise has so many amazing benefits - it’s not just limited to helping you lose weight or gain muscle!
One of the biggest benefits of exercise is to maintain a healthy heart. Now – as a vegan, you will likely have very low cholesterol anyway – Jenny and I got our levels checked a while ago and the doctor said our levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) were extremely low – Jenny’s was lower than mine and the doctor said it might be the lowest they’ve seen! A big part of this will be because most of the cholesterol forming foods are in a meat-based diet, and a high cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart disease. However, whilst diet is one of the biggest factors for reducing your cholesterol, exercise has also been shown to help too - doing regular exercise has been proven to reduce your cholesterol level!
Not only this, but exercising makes the heart work harder. The heart is a muscle, and like your other muscles, you can actually change the size and strength of your heart! I think we sometimes forget that it is actually a muscle which can be trained! By increasing the stroke strength and size of your heart, your heart will be able to work more efficiently, which will lower your resting heart rate, again decreasing the risk of heart disease.
You’ve probably been thinking a bit more about just how healthy your lungs are in the current climate. Whilst I can’t say how healthy your lungs are, I know that we can ALL improve our lung function with a bit of exercise.
Both steady state cardio and resistance training improve your lungs efficiency. By doing resistance training, you train your muscles to need less oxygen. This means when you’re at rest, they are needing even less to function!
On the other hand, steady state cardio improves the efficiency of the lungs themselves in their ability to absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. By doing regular exercise, you can improve the efficiency of your lungs AND your lung capacity – a definite win for anyone!
An understated, but crucial, benefit of exercise is its’ effect on your mental health. When we start to exercise, we have an immediate release of endorphins – chemicals which are released to essentially numb the physical pain of exercise - which have a soothing and happy effect on our brain. This feeling lasts for a few hours after exercising, so you have an immediate positive impact on your mental health.
Not only this, exercising also gives you time to get away from it all. It allows you to just knuckle down and focus on exercising. You don’t need to keep checking your phone – it’s just you, the exercise and your thoughts. It’s also likely to increase your confidence. Not through means of making your slimmer etc, but through the achievement of your goals. The more goals you achieve, the more confident you get within yourself, and the happier you will be. These are absolutely amazing benefits of exercise. If you stop and think after a few months of exercise “would I be able to do everything I do now, if I hadn’t exercised for the last few months” – the answer will be no, or at least not as easily as you do things.
Although diet is extremely important for weight loss – you know the saying “you can’t outrun a bad diet” - a benefit of combining a good diet with good exercise, is resultant loss of excess fat! Doing any form of exercise uses calories, and so by burning the extra calories, you’ll start using up your energy reserves in the form of fat!
If fat loss is what you’re aiming for then this is a very obvious benefit of exercising! Losing excess fat takes the pressure off your organs, and also reduces your chance of type 2 diabetes. So, not only is losing excess fat good for your own goals or image (if that’s what you want) but it’s got some great health benefits too!
Toning Up/Gaining Muscle
My favourite one! Gaining muscle! Exercise has the obvious benefit of gaining muscle. By doing exercises against resistance, whether that be weights, bodyweight, resistance bands or whatever, you’re putting tiny tears in your muscle, which then repair and grow stronger. It’s your body’s way of adapting and improving. Not only does getting stronger mean you get bigger muscles, but it means you’re able to do things you otherwise may not have been able to do! It also provides strength for your bones and tendons – so you’re less likely to have a brakeage from everyday life. Gaining muscle also increases your metabolic rate – so you burn more calories at rest - which means you’re able to eat more food full of nutrients without putting on excess fat! The more nutrient dense foods you’re eating, the more vitamins you’ll be getting! Excellent!
So, I hope this little guide gave you some great re-motivators for you, and reminded you just WHY exercising is great, event if you’re not necessarily seeing the specific results you want as quickly as you want! Stay motivated, stay healthy!