Commentary: There’s more to the gym than weight loss

Most people associate going to the gym with benefits like weight loss and muscle gain. What they don’t realize is working out provides benefits beyond getting fit.

Regular exercise can have significant effects on mental health, mood, muscles and joints as well as general health benefits that go deeper than appearance. I didn’t realize these benefits when I first decided to go to the gym regularly, but now they’re the reason I continue going.

As someone who suffers from ADD, going to my evening or night classes can be difficult. But I find if I go to the gym beforehand I have a much easier time paying attention and sitting through them.

Working out can help with a person’s ADD or ADHD symptoms. Physical activity helps increase the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels. These all affect a person’s ability to focus and pay attention. Norepinephrine can also help moderate the brain’s response to stress.

Exercising is an effective way to reduce stress. Going to the gym before dealing with a stressful problem or situation can help a person deal with it head on and with clear vision.

Regular exercise can do wonders to help improve your mental health. A Harvard Medical School study found exercise can be just as effective as medications when it comes to treating mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

During the test they split people diagnosed with depression into three groups. One group was given medication, one was told to exercise and the third group was told to do both. All three groups saw equal effects in their mental health and the ones who continued to exercise afterwards were less likely to see relapses.

First-year student Leah Mitchell has found going to the gym has not only helped with her mental health but also her muscles and joins. Her physiotherapist and chiropractor suggested she start going to help with her spine and hip problems and she herself wanted to be more productive.

“I realized one day that I was sitting around a lot just watching Netflix and I got so content with just being there where I was, and I knew I could probably do something better,” said Mitchell.

“Then I just thought, ‘Well we have a gym here with free memberships for students so why not just go there?’”

Going to the gym or exercising is said to help productivity. An article by Greatist, a health and fitness media website, claims it can help increase your energy and cause you to get more done. It can also help increase your relaxation and help your sleep schedule.

“Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep,” according to the article.

There are multiple health benefits from regular exercise including lower blood pressure. When my doctor became concerned with my blood pressure levels the first thing he suggested was working out regularly. He said the weight loss and physical activity would help lower my blood pressure.

It can also help those who suffer from chronic pain and help prevent osteoporosis. A Reader’s Digest article explains:

“During exercise, the impact as your feet hit the ground stimulates cells in the bones of your legs, hips, and spine to build new bone, preventing the thinning that can lead to osteoporosis. High-impact activities such as dancing, jumping rope, or playing tennis do more to stimulate bone growth and maintain bone density.”

When I was having lower-back pains a physiotherapist told me increasing my core strength and doing core exercises would help reduce the pain and help me support my back more.

Going to the gym and exercising regularly can have many benefits. As someone who goes to the gym regularly I can say the benefits greatly outweigh the chore of going to the gym.

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