Some other ways that we benefit from regular exercise:
Immune Health – Exercise stimulates the lymphatic system and a healthy lymphatic systems is crucial to a strong immune system. It is sometimes said that the lymphatic system is the body's first line of defense against disease. Exercise also improves circulation throughout the whole body helping to break up stagnant energy and bringing fresh energy to every cell.
Energy – it sounds contradictory at first because exercise uses a lot of energy, yet it also credited with increasing energy. Perhaps because it improves circulation and breaks up stagnation as mentioned above.
Stress relief! - When we are stressed we unconsciously clench our muscles which uses up a lot of our energy! Exercise helps shake a lot of this held in tension out. You have probably noticed how often after exercise you feel much more mentally relaxed. Getting the body moving helps the mind to relax.
Creativitiy - The relaxation that results from exercise helps us be more creative in all sorts of ways. Oftentimes, the shift in mood and focus that exercise brings is exactly what we need to see a problem from a fresh perspective.
Mood Elevator - Everyone has heard of runner's high which happens when the body produces endorphins from vigorous exercise. However, your body doesn't care if you are running, playing basketball or cycling. It is going to produce endorphins from any energetic physical activity and your mood will likely show it. This is why people suffering from anxiety or depression are often advised to exercise.
Improved Sleep – it seems that we are at an all time high for sleep problems. Considering the effect of exercise on stress reduction, physical tension, mood and creativity, it is not surprising that after releasing some of our pent up energy through exercise, we will sleep better. I am all for anything that helps me get a good night's rest!
So, now that we have reviewed why exercise is so important, I want to mention that it helps to choose a form of exercise that you enjoy. That way you won't think of the activity as another task on your To Do list but more like a refreshing change of pace. If you make a commitment to swim so many laps per day but you don't actually enjoy swimming, then you will have an inner resistance to executing your plan. That is a little self-sabotaging.
I find it helps to remember that in simpler times when many people performed demanding physical work, they did not carve out a portion of the day for exercise. It was a byproduct of their normal activities. Likewise, in many cultures, people walk several miles a day as part of their normal routine of shopping and going to the bank. In most cities in the United States, it is common to drive almost everywhere. When a friend of mine was visiting the US several years ago, she was astonished to see that people can do their banking without even getting out of the car!
With all that said, my personal favorite form of exercise is yoga. I like that it effects my body, mind and spirit. I have definitely felt the way that yoga increases my capacity to respond well in stressful situations. And it can be extremely effective at building strength, flexibility and balance. Once you have learned some basic routines, yoga can be done anywhere. No special attire needed aside from non-restrictive clothes. Classes are especially good for beginners to help ensure your alignment is right, etc. but once you are familiar with yoga, it can easily be done at home or while traveling. You can design your own practice, use some routines from a book or let yourself be guided by an instruction CD or DVD.