A little exercise, not a lot, brings the biggest health and happiness benefits – honest!
It’s accepted wisdom that exercise makes us healthier and happier. But did you know that the biggest health and happiness benefits come from exercising a little, not a lot? BeHappyMum ‘s known this for a while – so we thought we’d tell YOU all about it!
Let’s look at the science
Before we look at why small amounts of exercise deliver the greatest benefits, it’s helpful to understand exactly why exercise makes us healthier and happier and when your happier, so are the kids!
Health-wise, research has found that exercise reduces our risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, by lowering our blood pressure and resting heart rate, and reducing the proteins that cause inflammation.
It’s also been proved that exercise lessens the risk of certain cancers, especially breast and colon cancer. Although the exact processes aren’t known, it’s thought that it contributes by boosting the immune system, lowering the amount of female hormones in the blood and helping prevent insulin resistance.
As if that weren’t enough, exercise makes our brains release various proteins, the best-known being endorphins, which block pain and can make us feel positively euphoric – the main reason why exercise makes us happy. Another protein, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), has been shown to boost both short- and long-term memory, which is why things often seem clearer after exercise.
OK – now we know why exercise is so good for us. But why is it better to exercise a little rather than a lot?
The first 20 minutes of exercise are the most important
In 2012, New York Times fitness columnist Gretchen Reynolds published a book called ‘The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer’, which analysed health and fitness research to come up with the startling fact that we don’t need to exercise like crazy to see the benefit; we just need to do something.
“I wanted people to understand…how little exercise you can do in order to get lots and lots of health benefits,” she explained in the New York Times. “The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk – all of those things come in the first 20 minutes of being active.”
She went on: “That doesn’t mean I’m suggesting people should not exercise more if they want to. But the science shows that if you just do anything, even stand in place 20 minutes, you will be healthier.”
Reynolds talks a lot in her book about the importance of keeping active. “If you walk…you get all sorts of physiological changes that result in better health. Gardening counts as exercise. What would be nice would be for people to identify with the whole idea of moving more as opposed to quote ‘exercise’.”
Aside from this startling news, there are other reasons why ‘less is more’ when it comes to exercise…
Exercise is addictive
FACT: the effects of endorphins and BDNF are similar to drug addiction! Yes, really, which is why (a) the feeling of euphoria is highest when you start exercising and (b) the more you exercise, the more you need to do to achieve the same effect.
So to get the biggest happiness benefits from exercise, it’s better to exercise a little rather than a lot…
Great news for busy mums!
We’re delighted that busy mums don’t need to feel guilty about not working out for hours every day – because ‘Ditch The Guilt’ is one of our mantras!
It’s also fantastic that the bite-size activities that fit most easily into mums’ busy lives also deliver the biggest health and happiness boost. In fact, we love it so much that in our next blog, we’ll be giving you some quick, easy and fully explained exercises from our FitMama app for FREE…so watch this space!
Like this blog? Then why not Like it, Share it or Follow us