How Exercise Improves Your Health Even Without Weight LossOctober 25, 2023
The relationship between exercise and weight loss is well known, but the benefits of exercise go far beyond shedding pounds. Many benefits of exercise occur without the loss of a single pound. Exercise alone, without regard to weight loss, is a powerful way to improve your mental and physical well-being. From head to toe, exercise improves your health even without weight loss.
Small Amounts of Exercise Improves Your Health
Even small amounts of daily physical activity have been shown to improve brain health and cognitive function - at any age! One way exercise improves brain health is by improving the integrity of the white matter in the brain. This improvement most likely occurs, in part, due to improved blood flow to the brain.
Have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep? Exercise has been shown to help you fall asleep faster and to improve your sleep quality. People who exercise spend more time in restorative sleep at night. A better night of sleep means a better day, with less daytime sleepiness. And more energy to exercise!
Exercise helps relieve stress in many ways. Exercise reduces the levels of inflammatory hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body and encourages the release of relaxation hormones such as endorphins. The stress-relieving benefits of exercise go far beyond the biochemical effects.
Spending time moving rhythmically can provide a type of meditative experience. Moving in the morning in the early sunlight can help reset your circadian rhythm. Spending time moving in nature can provide further stress reduction. Exercising with friends can provide positive social interaction.
Decrease Feelings of Stress
Being healthy and feeling well also decrease feelings of stress. Daily exercise boosts your immune system by getting the immune cells moving throughout your body. This effect can last up to 3 hours after exercise!
Exercise not only boosts your immune system to ward off acute illnesses, but reduces your chance of developing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and some types of cancer. With regular physical activity, cells become more sensitive to insulin, decreasing insulin resistance and the toll that takes on your pancreas.
Daily activity decreases your blood pressure and improves your blood lipid profile, which helps to protect your heart and blood vessels. Daily exercise may improve blood flow to all parts of the body, including sexual organs. This improved blood flow may improve erectile function in men and libido in men and women.
Not All Fat is the Same
While exercise may help with weight loss, even without weight loss exercise may improve your body composition. Not all fat is the same. White fat stores extra energy. Most of the fat in the body is white fat. Brown fat, on the other hand, helps maintain the body’s temperature, by breaking down glucose and fat molecules to create heat. Exercise increases the production of a protein called irisin, which may convert white fat to brown fat. Exercising in cold temperatures like pools and the outdoors may also further help convert white fat to brown fat.
Not all pounds are the same. Compare a pound of muscle and a pound of fat. While they both weigh one pound, they differ in size. Muscle is far more dense than fat, so a pound of muscle is much leaner than a pound of fat. One benefit of exercise, especially strength training, is that it increases your muscle mass. So, while you may not lose weight, you will lose inches. But, more importantly, you will become stronger and able to perform activities of daily living with greater ease. Muscle also burns more calories at rest than fat, so your daily energy expenditure or “metabolism” will increase.
This body composition change is especially important in people over the age of 50. As we age, muscle mass naturally decreases and fat mass increases. As a result, metabolism slows, and weight gain becomes almost inevitable.
In addition to building muscle, exercise may improve bone density. Specifically, weight training and other weight bearing exercises may encourage the production of more bone tissues, creating stronger, denser bones. Not only may your bones become stronger and denser, as muscle mass increases and coordination increases, your risk of falling and breaking a bone may decrease.
Whether you are trying to lose weight, or not, the benefits of exercise are key to improving your holistic wellness.
ABOUT THE AUTHORNikhilesh Sekhar MD, FACS, FASMBS currently practices at New York Bariatric Group and has performed thousands of WLS procedures including Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass, Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy and Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding. He also has background performing laparoscopic Nissen, laparoscopic inguinal and ventral hernia repair, laparoscopic colectomy and laparoscopic lymphadenectomy. Read more articles from Dr. Sekhar