We know, we hate exercise just as much as you do. The sad truth is, staying healthy involves exercising whether we like it or not.
But we have some good news: new research is proving that the least intense kind of exercise, aerobics or "cardio," can have huge benefits for your body, even in very small doses.
Here's nine ways the exercise can improve your body:
1. It helps manage diabetes
Whether you already have Type 2 diabetes, or you're trying to avoid it, aerobic exercise has been proven to keep the disease at bay. The even better news is that it only takes 20 minutes of mild exercise a few days each week to cut your diabetes risk by almost half.
In fact, just one session of cardio exercise can regulate your body's insulin production for the next 24 hours.
2. It lifts your mood
According to Harvard Medical School, aerobic exercise like running or swimming "has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress."
Even patients with clinical depression noticed a significant improvement in their symptoms with just 30 minutes on the treadmill a few days each week.
3. It builds muscle
It used to be common knowledge that cardio exercises cut fat, while you had to lift weights to build muscle. In fact, a review of 14 studies found that under an hour of cardio exercise four days a week can help build your leg muscles as well as resistance exercise does.
4. It can repair your heart
As we age, the muscles in your heart "stiffen," making it harder for the muscle to pump oxygen-rich blood all over your body. Regular cardio exercise has been proven to loosen up your heart muscles, improving your overall health.
5. It helps control your cholesterol
Regular cardio exercise packs a one-two punch: not only does it shrink your levels of LDL (or "bad" cholesterol) but it also increases the HDL ("good" cholesterol) in your bloodstream.
6. It strengthens your heart and lungs
Regularly doing cardio exercise trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently. Those benefits carry over to your resting heart rate and oxygen intake. As studies of swimmers and runners show, these changes help improve your blood pressure and keep your heart healthy.
7. It's great for your gut health
We've shared advice to keep your gut healthy before, and it's an important topic. While the microbes in your gut are small, they have big effect on your health.
Here's proof: by exercising three to five times a week, you can increase production of butyrate in your body. This fatty acid fights inflammation and creates energy, so you'll get a healthy boost and feel better too.
(You'll even look slimmer, since inflammation is a major cause of belly bloat.)
8. It makes your skin nicer
A lot nicer. A study found that people over 40 who regularly do aerobic exercise have skin comparable to 20 or 30-somethings. So what's their secret? Sadly, it comes from the chemicals our body produces during the workout, so you can't buy it in a can.
9. It fights the symptoms of aging
We can't stop our brains from slowing down as we age, but you can prevent your body from declining too rapidly. Before a patient develops Alzheimer's, they exhibit signs of MCI - Mild Cognitive Impairment - including memory loss.
When MCI patients walked for 30 minutes just three days a week, their symptoms noticeably improved. More research might even prove that exercise increases your brain power.
Have these benefits convinced you to exercise more?
[H/T: Business Insider]