11 Science-Backed Reasons to Go to the Gym

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Woman working out

According to The State of Obesity, 80% of American adults are not moving as much as they should, and only 20% of us are actually getting enough exercise.

The ramifications of living a sedentary lifestyle are staggering and often dismissed.

An inactive lifestyle can raise blood pressure and increase your risk of developing type II diabetes, heart disease, depression, and anxiety.

Hippocrates is known for saying, “walking is the best medicine.” By working out, you are helping yourself financially, mentally, and physically in the short and long term. 

Here are 11 science-backed reasons to enroll at a gym ASAP:

1. Using a gym membership actually saves you money

Johnson & Johnson incorporated an employee wellness program in 2002 and tracked the healthcare costs in relation to the wellness program costs. They estimated that for every dollar they spent on their employee wellness program, there was a return of $2.71 in health care cost savings.

Consider everything that you currently pay for and ask yourself if you can afford an extra $10 a month. That’s the low end of gym memberships.

If you can’t afford that, think about a doctor’s bill or co-pay to visit a doctor. You may inevitably pay more to see a doctor due to sickness, injury, or disease than you would for a monthly gym membership.

As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Prevent the reasons that cause you to see a doctor in the first place.

Science-backed reasons to get to the gym

2. Exercising can help with depression

A study to test the effectiveness of aerobic exercise compared to the effects of standard medications found that an aerobic exercise program was just as effective as standard prescription medicines.

As we age, disease and disability can lead to depression. Depression can also be a cause of disease and disability in the elderly.

Medications are typically prescribed for symptoms of depression, and yet 30% to 35% of patients don’t respond to the medications.

Including an aerobic exercise program in congruence with medications, as the study argues, could be an effective treatment for depression.

3. Working out helps reduce anxiety and stress

There wouldn’t be a term called “runner’s high” if it didn’t exist. It’s the feeling of euphoria one gets during or after exercise.

During high stress, your mind and body react accordingly, releasing endorphins. These opiate proteins have pain-relieving properties and flood your system.

When you finish a hard workout or athletic endeavor, you’re no longer under stress and, therefore, those endorphins give you a bit of a high. A majority of adults said they feel better after working out.

Additionally, when you train your body to function under high stress, you also retroactively train your mind to handle stressful situations.

4.  Exercise improves cardiovascular health

Aerobic workouts help improve the body’s ability to take in, transport, and use oxygen (maximum aerobic capacity). As your body adapts and becomes stronger in transporting oxygen, tasks that used to leave you breathless will no longer have that effect.

This will also enhance the blood vessels’ ability to provide oxygen to muscles during exercise.

Additionally, as your muscles strengthen, their ability to utilize oxygen will also improve, which means they will need less oxygen and produce less carbon dioxide. In effect, you will need less oxygen to complete exercises.

5. Working out increases self-confidence

A two-year study conducted on middle-aged women found that exercise improved participants’ self-esteem.

While the study utilized Body Mass Index (BMI) as an indicator of weight loss and health, the women showed improved self-esteem and body confidence as their BMIs lowered to a healthy level.

When you have higher self-esteem, you’re more emotionally stable and tend to be more resilient to stress. You’re also more likely to set goals and work hard to achieve them.

Science-backed reasons to exercise

6. Exercise improves brain function

In addition to less depression, exercise also enhances brain function.

Studies suggest that exercise is one of the best ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Because exercise improves blood flow to the brain, brain-derived neurotrophic factor causes new neurons to grow. These neurons protect brain cells from degeneration.

Further, exercise protects the white matter in our brains. White matter is essentially a bundle of nerves that act as communicators, connecting various parts of the brain.

A study conducted showed that the participants who had higher maximum aerobic capacity had less deterioration of white-matter fibers than those with lower maximum aerobic capacity.

7. Working out decreases inflammation

A recent study found that one moderate-intensity 20-minute session can produce an anti-inflammatory cellular response.

While some inflammation is good for the body, such as fending off viruses and bacteria and repairing damaged tissues, chronic inflammation has deleterious effects and can cause health issues like diabetes and obesity.

8. HIIT increases fat loss

If you’re short on time, incorporating high intensity interval training (HIIT) can get the same health benefits as a longer bout of exercise because HIIT increases fat loss during and after the workout.

Some studies suggest that you can maintain muscle mass while also losing fat through HIIT. During HIIT, your body must utilize several resources: fat, enzymes, and hormones to react efficiently to the stress.

9. Weight training strengthens bone

Once you hit 30, your bones have reached their maximum strength and density.

For men, bone loss occurs between the ages of 45 to 50 at a rate of .4% to .75% per year. For women, bones loss starts at 30 to 35 and is lost at a rate of .75% to 1% per year. With menopause, the rate of bone loss grows from 2% to 3% per year until five years after menopause.

With regular exercise and strength training, you can prevent bone loss as you age as well as protect your bones from physical trauma such as falls.

Science-backed reaasons to work out

10. Exercise improves immune function

Regular moderate exercise has been shown to improve the immune system function.

A study conducted found that moderate intensity exercise among participants lowered incidences of illness.

Exercise helps clear out bacteria from the lungs and airways. Additionally, from exercise, white blood cells rapidly circulate throughout the body faster, which could aid in earlier detection of illness.

Similar to a fever, the rise in body temperature during exercise can help prevent bacteria growing in your body and fight infection.

11. Helps reduce risks of some cancers

The biggest risk factors to cancer that you can control are body weight, diet, and physical activity.

According to the American Cancer Society, 20% of diagnosed cancers are related to how much body fat you have, lack of physical exercise, poor nutrition, and excessive alcohol consumption. These can all be controlled.

Additionally, the same factors that can cause cancer can also cause heart disease and diabetes.

Simple changes in diet such as excluding alcohol, limiting high-calorie food intake, and eating more vegetables can affect your weight overall.

The American Cancer Society recommends participating in 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (like HITT) per week.