Nowadays everyone ranging from your doctor to your company recommends you to exercise. There is a heap of benefits cited for working out. It is supposed to make you look younger, uplift your mood, increase your productivity and even give you more success.
Is it all true? What exactly happens when you start working out?
I was fascinated by hearing the enormous benefits cited and wanted to test them out on me. So, I made it a point to go to the gym for three days a week for at least six months.
It was difficult initially, but the expected rewards kept me going. By the end of six months, I was surprised at how much my body had changed.
In the process, I also learned a lot about what research had to say about the impact of physical training on the human body.
15 Ways Your Body Changes When You Exercise
Let us look at what research reports say on how your physique changes when you exercise.
Any form of regular physical activity has multiple effects on your body.
1. Increase in Energy
When you do a regular workout, the number of mitochondria units in your cells increase. This process is called mitochondrial biogenesis.
Mitochondria is the energy powerhouse of the cell, and an increase in them leads to a surge in your overall energy.
In fact, your total number of mitochondrial units can increase by up to 50% with 12 weeks of training.
2. Burning of Fat
Your system breaks down the glucose (sugar) obtained from a meal to produce the energy required for a workout. When that glucose gets over, the body turns to glycogen which is the glucose stored in the liver and muscles. This glycogen is used to provide energy in the period between meals.
After the glycogen reserves get over, the system has two options to get the required energy – burn protein or burn fat. However, the human growth hormone enables the body to target the fat reserves which provide more power and preserve lean muscle mass.
This hormone is the reason that at the start of your training, you start to lose fat first. Only in cases of extreme fasting, when the fat reserves get over, the system switches to burning proteins or muscle mass.
In fact, intermittent fasting coupled with physical training is a great way to reduce body fat fast.
Physical training helps in the reduction of fat by burning fat deposits after glucose reserves get exhausted. Source: https://pixabay.com/en/belly-body-calories-diet-exercise-2354/
3. Cooling Off
As you start exercising, your body starts heating up due to the heat released from the breakdown of glucose and the increased blood flow.
To prevent the temperature from increasing beyond the level at which physiological functions get affected, the sweat glands on the surface of the skin start working.
The sweat produced helps to bring down the temperature of the skin through evaporation, hydrates your skin and gives you that glowy look.
4. Increase in Metabolism Post Exercise
The body starts breaking down food at a faster rate to produce the extra energy required during a workout which increases your metabolism. It is quite well known.
However, what you might not know is that the increase in metabolism continues even when the body is at rest and this phenomena is known as EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption).
It can continue for 72 hours post workout, and the result is an increased reduction in fat.
As per a 2011 research by Amy Knab, 45-minutes of cycling resulted in a 37% increase in metabolism for 14 hours after exercise.
5. Muscle Soreness
When you come back to exercise after a break, you try to give it your all to burn away the excess fat. You feel great after burning all those calories and coming back home. However, the next day your muscles become sore. It is because of the fact that your muscles undergo inflammation when put under strain suddenly and enter the repair process.
Muscle soreness sets in after a day of workout due to muscle breakdown during training.
The scientific term for it is DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness). It is a very natural process that persists for 72 hours, and you shouldn’t stop working out due to the soreness.
You need to push past it to experience the actual gains of physical training.
6. Reduction in Stress
Another impact of working out is comparable to drugs. Seriously! Like drugs, it helps in reducing stress and cheering you up.
The reason behind this is the production of neurotransmitters in the brain called endorphins which give you a runner’s high.
Also, the release of another neurotransmitter called serotonin uplifts your mood and helps you fight depression.
Another great way to reduce stress is yoga.
7. Better Sleep
If you are struggling with insomnia, and you lie awake in bed for hours wondering when you will fall asleep, exercise can come to your rescue.
Working out enables you to sleep better by burning the excess calories and tiring the muscles
The primary cause of insomnia is a sedentary lifestyle which results in excess energy in the body. Physical training enables you to spend the excess calories and also tires the muscles which need to rebuild themselves during sleep.
Hence, you get a better sleep when you workout. How much better you ask? Two-and-a-half hours of physical training every week improves your quality of sleep by 65%.
8. Better Retention of Glucose
Working out not only results in a faster breakdown of glucose but also enables the muscles to retain glucose better. In other words, your body starts becoming more efficient.
The faster breakdown of glucose is especially helpful if you have diabetes and that’s the reason why doctors recommend you to exercise on a regular basis.
9. Increase in Focus and Memory
When you start working out, your body is put under stress, and it triggers a fight or flight response. Your body responds by increasing the blood flow to the brain which makes you more alert and focused.
Physical training increases the blood flow to the brain and helps you focus better.
When you sustain the training for some time, the brain starts producing more cells to process oxygen better. These cells help in improving your memory and prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s.
10. Increase in Stamina
Regular exercise also affects your lungs. Your lungs have a maximum capacity for intake of oxygen known as VO2max.
When you workout, your body may need up to 15 times more oxygen than at rest. It causes your VO2max to increase, and the higher oxygen intake enables you to workout for an extended period.
Doing nine months of cardio can increase your VO2max by 25%.
11. Looking Younger
The increased production of sweat during physical training helps to flush out the toxic residue from cells making your skin cleaner. The clean skin gives you a younger feel.
It also helps to slow down the aging process in cells by increasing the length of telomeres in chromosomes which results in a longer life.
Telomeres are like the plastic tips on shoelaces which help protect the end of chromosomes. They are known to regulate the aging mechanism in the human body.
12. Larger Muscles
If you do strength training in the gym for six months, your muscles will start looking bigger.
Hypertrophy results in larger muscles after six months of regular weight training.
The main reason behind it is the tearing and reforming of muscles every time after a workout. It happens through a process called hypertrophy.
The muscles increase in size to provide increased strength for lifting heavier weights.
13. Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
The heart starts pumping the blood faster to circulate more oxygen in the body. This increased oxygen is needed to produce the energy required for the workout.
Over time, it results in the generation of new blood vessels and the heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood. This efficient heart reduces your blood pressure and heartbeat at rest which lowers the risk of heart diseases.
In fact, during a 10-week physical training program, an individual with an initial resting heart rate of 80 beats/min can reasonably expect to see a reduction of about 10 beats/min in their resting heart rate.
Heart rate and blood pressure at rest decrease after consistent physical training as heart becomes more efficient.
However, for people with existing heart problems always consult a physician before picking up any workout.
14. Denser Bones
If you continue to exercise for one year, not only your muscles but your bone structure changes as well.
Bone tissues in the skeleton keep on increasing till the age of 30, when the body hits peak bone mass. After that, the bone density begins to decline. The decline becomes faster with a sedentary lifestyle.
Physical training increases the density of your bones and helps to reverse the effects of osteoporosis in old age. This increase in bone density in turn massively reduces the risk of fracture.
15. Habit Forming
Perhaps the most significant impact of exercise continued for an extended period is that it forms a habit.
50% of the people stop exercising before six months but for those who continue beyond six months the retention rate is much higher.
As workout uplifts your mood, you will soon start craving it. It will give you the high of heroin without the side effects of it.
Now we have come to the end of the 15 changes that your body goes through when you exercise. If you are still not satisfied, there is one bonus impact of physical training.
Bonus: Increases Productivity
Daily morning exercise can increase your productivity by increasing your energy and enabling you to take control of your life.
A dose of exercise in the morning gives a flying start to your day. You wake up early and go for a run, take a walk or a workout in the gym.
It helps you to take control of your day, increases your metabolism, boosts your energy, uplifts your mood and provides you with sharper focus.
The combined effect of these result in an increase in your productivity.
We have seen above that there are a host of benefits of exercising on a regular basis. I noticed a lot of these changes when I began going to the gym regularly.
However, my most significant realization after regular workouts was an appreciation for my body. I understood that the human body is a fantastic instrument that can rapidly adapt itself to changes in stimulus.
It’s the most intelligent machinery on the planet. As it undergoes more training, it increasingly becomes stronger and more efficient. The choice is yours how you want to use this gift.
Human body is a wonderful instrument and training can make it stronger and efficient.
Ok, let’s say I am interested in gaining the benefits of a regular workout. However, what does regular exercise mean? How much time should I spend training?
Also, should I go for a run, is a walk sufficient or should I workout in the gym?
These are all very valid questions. Let us address them one by one.
What does Regular Exercise Mean?
As per the US Department of Health and Human services, every adult should train for a minimum of two-and-a-half hours a week to get the benefits of regular exercise.
The best way to train is to take out 25-30 minutes every day for six days a week and give your body a rest on Sundays.
If you can’t find time in the morning or evening, you should try and squeeze it into your daily routine.
You can take the stairs, walk after your office lunch, play with your children, have a standing desk in the office or do household chores like maintaining your lawn, taking out the trash, doing the dishes or even going dancing to a club.
Every single thing counts.
How to Make Sure you Hit your Exercise Goal Daily?
A great way to measure your daily activity is to use a fitness tracker like Fitbit or Pedometer. You can keep a target of 10,000 steps (equivalent to around 7 km) and aim to hit that number every day.
Multiple fitness trackers are available to record your daily activity and enable you to hit your target.
No need to go through the hassle of keeping track of your individual activities.
You can also use your smartphone for the same. But you need to have your phone with you at all times, which is not possible for some activities taking a swim.
What Kind of Exercise Should You Do?
The type of exercise that you should do depends on your age, goals, and preferences.
If you are a younger or middle-aged person and targeting for an athletic look or weight loss, you should go for a run or do a cardio workout.
Older people who have trouble running as it hurts their joints, can try walking or yoga.
If you are looking to build your core strength or fighting with fat that doesn’t go off, you should do strength training in the gym.
For those of you who think running or gym sessions are annoying, you can take up sports like badminton or tennis. Swimming is also an excellent workout for those who like to take a dip after a hard day at work.
So now that you have a clarity of the positive benefits of exercising on your body, would you consider adding physical training to your daily routine? I would love to hear from you.