21 amazing benefits of exercise

Unlike many refrains you hear about your health, exercise is really, truly good for you. There’s a mountain of research backing up its many benefits.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 2.5 hours of moderate cardio activity or 1.25 hours of vigorous cardio activity every week, plus two days of strength training.

People in some states work out more than others, but even California — the state with the highest average number of minutes spent exercising every week (87.4) — falls short of the recommendations.

Exercise doesn’t need to be fancy: Even small improvements like walking more or running up the stairs to your office can help. And you don’t need to do SoulCycle or Pilates to get in shape — jumping jacks and push-ups in your bedroom count, too. Just get up and move.

If you need more convincing, here are 21 research-based benefits of exercise to help motivate you to leave the couch behind.

People who exercise vigorously were found to also have higher levels of mood-boosting vitamin D, probably because they spend more time out in the sun.

Working out has been associated with a more effective cardiovascular system and a lower risk of heart disease. Even low-impact exercise like yoga has shown these effects.

Regular exercise has been shown to decrease stress levels.

Research has found that short bursts of intense cardio training can help people lose weight and shed fat.

For women, including those taking antidepressants, exercise has been shown to increase sexual arousal.

Working out is associated with improved self esteem and confidence.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Regular physical activity has been shown to help with the symptoms of ADHD.

Exercise energizes you with endorphins right when you finish, and it's associated with long-term increases in happiness, too.

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