The mistake people make when they think about exercise and weight management is the perception that it’s all about counting calories. It’s not. Exercise plays a significantly broader role in helping people maintain both a healthy body weight and lifestyle.
Let’s start with the shot in the arm physical activity gives us in terms of mood, willpower and resilience. For many people, their relationship with food is not straightforward. The connection between hunger and eating has been knocked off balance. Stress eating and emotional eating are struggles for a great number of people. And obesity is frequently accompanied by depression, with the two often triggering and influencing each other, according to the American Psychological Association. Exercise helps people manage stress, sadness, anxiety and other emotions that can lead them to overeat. And according to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids), reduces immune system chemicals that can worsen depression, and increases body temperature, which may have calming effects.
Then there’s the fact that exercise can help us sleep. Lack of sleep disrupts the balance of key hormones that control appetite. Exercise, however, can help improve sleep. There is even evidence that at the right times of day, exercise can have a positive effect on our circadian rhythms or inner clock, which is important for quality of sleep and other health issues.
The National Weight Control Registry shows plainly that 90 percent of those who have lost weight and kept it off exercise about an hour a day on average. The most compelling reason to exercise, however, may be for the health benefits it brings. If for no other reason, we all should be physically active simply because it increases the odds that we will be able to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. By helping to protect against heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and even some cancers, regular exercise helps to protect us against physical and mental decline. All told, it is far easier to fall prey to poor lifestyle habits and dietary choices when we’re demoralized by poor health. Feeling good is motivational, and motivation helps people make smart decisions. Exercise really is the steadfast cornerstone of a healthy weight and lifestyle. Indeed, it’s the very foundation on which we all can build our wellbeing.
Joe S. Moore, President & CEO, International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. HuffPost 18 June 2015.