Research reveals surprising perks that'll make you crave the gym
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"A lot of exercise, when it's done properly, can get you in tune with your body. Sometimes you get in tune with it quicker than your mind can," says one survey participant.
While we're not necessarily suggesting you get your mojo on at the gym, the researchers point out that "exercise—which is already known to have significant benefits to health and well-being—has the potential to enhance women's sexual lives as well."
Make it happen: Most women reported getting the "tingly" feelings during some type of abdominal exercises, especially those that engage the pelvic floor like hanging leg raises.
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Love it or hate it, running is the country's most popular sport. But why exactly do some people live to run while others would rather, well, die. Part of it could be due to the covetous "runner's high," an endorphin rush brought on by intense exercise. The good news is researchers recently confirmed that runner's high is legit and even better, you can train yourself to get one by slowly raising the intensity of your exercise.
Make it happen: You don't have to run to get a runner's high—any cardio activity will work! Start at a pace you are comfortable with and then slowly increase the intensity. You may not feel it right away, but the scientists say as your fitness level increases over time, you'll transform into one of those super-peppy Saturday morning runners you used to hate.
Better Overall Mood
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Pop a pill or pop over to the gym? When it comes to reducing mild to moderate anxiety and depression, research shows that exercise works just as well as medication. A 2007 study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that after 16 weeks on an exercise plan, 45 percent of women diagnosed with major depression achieved remission of their symptoms. Physical activity seems to affect some key chemicals in the nervous system (norepinephrine and serotonin) that are targets of antidepressant drugs, as well as brain neurotrophins, which transmit signals in brain regions related to mood.
Exercise may also boost people's feelings of self-efficacy and promote positive thinking, the researchers say.
Make it happen: Find a buddy! The group in the study that fared the best did a "group, supervised exercise routine" rather than just trying to go it alone. Some experts speculate that group exercise, with its social aspect, may have even more benefits.
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If you've ever watched a woman who is confident in her own body, chances are you couldn't take your eyes off her. While some people are just born that way (Giselle Bundchen, perhaps?), the rest of us can achieve the same inner and outer strength through exercise.
Make it happen: Confidence is about so much more than how you look. As you go through your workout, try focusing on all the cool things your body can do. Did you pump out an extra set of pushups? Make a note of it. Recognizing your achievements will help you remember them later on when you need a little boost. Another easy way to own the room? Stand up straight! You didn't take all those Pilates classes for nothing, right?
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Being optimistic has repeatedly been linked to a stronger immune system, longer life, higher quality of life, and a host of other health perks. And you don't have to play Pollyanna to reap the benefits of having a positive attitude. If you weren't born with the sunshine gene, swinging a kettlebell might be just as good. Researchers found that exercise "promotes positive thinking and encourages self-efficacy".
Make it happen: The key is consistency. Working out over time can help retrain your brain to look on the brightside. Scientists say it takes about 21 days to restructure your neural cortex, which is a fancy way of saying "make a habit."