Exercise: It really is good for you, and here’s why

Everyone knows that exercise improves health, but many are unclear as to how the benefits work. Others may be surprised to hear that exercise can even boost mental health. Let's start there.

Mental health
Exercise won't necessarily give you the ability to do long division, but it may stimulate the release of key stress-relieving chemicals in the brain. These chemicals, including endorphins, can have wide-ranging effects on overall mood, and some experts believe they could even help with self-confidence.

Spending time working on your abs doesn't have to be time spent alone, either. Working out with family and friends is a great way to unwind and enjoy nature.

Exercise raises energy, but what does that mean? It may not sound like it, but yes, energy is a technical term. In short, it refers to the body's ability to utilize available oxygen and calories to perform physical and mental tasks. Exercise increases energy, getting the body used to greater and greater amounts of energy output at a given time. As a result, metabolism increases to catch up with the body's heavy energy use, and this may help individuals to make better use of their meals.

Physical activity also pumps more oxygen into the bloodstream, enabling the body to perform even greater energy-consuming feats.

Sleep, and lack thereof
Recent studies have shown that exercise can promote deep sleep by helping regulate the body's natural circadian rhythm. It also doesn't hurt to hit the sack exhausted from a long workout.

By boosting overall energy levels, exercise may also be capable of improving a person's sex life. Recent studies indicate that exercise may help in upping arousal levels during intimacy.

Disease reduction
Although exercise is in no way a cure for disease or serious illness, it can help prepare the body to do some of the fighting itself. Exercise has been shown to ease the impact of heart ailments, and in particular, it has been shown to lower "bad" cholesterol and raise "good" cholesterol. By keeping your body regularly active, you ensure that your immune system has access to plenty of oxygen for when it needs to power white blood cells to play real-life Space Invaders in your bloodstream.

Individual response
Everyone responds to exercise differently. While diets may play a role, genes have been shown in recent years to affect how quickly some people develop or lose muscle mass. Different types of exercise also render different types of muscle. Runners tend to have leaner, fast-twitch muscles, while weightlifters are more likely to have slow-twitch muscles.

Not only is it good for you, but exercise is also free of charge and can be done from home or work. Admittedly, it can be hard. The benefits, though, can be life-changing.