10 life-changing reasons to get active

Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise — that’s any activity that gets you a little bit warm and out of breath — can have significant, positive impacts on your life.

1. Sleep better

Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper, as it reduces stress. It also raises and then lowers your body temperature, which can trigger sleep, and, if you’re exercising outside, the natural sunlight can help reset your body clock. Just try to avoid physical activity right before bedtime as exercise generally increases your body’s energy, which may keep you awake.

2. Increase brain power

A quick walk or jog around the block will instantly boost your energy levels and increase blood flow to the brain, making you more awake, alert, focused and productive. In the long term, exercise stimulates the growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain linked with learning and memory, while immersion in nature helps to give the prefrontal cortex a break and allow your brain to refresh.

People hiking in rainforestPeople hiking in rainforest

3. Boost your immune system

Lead researcher David C. Nieman and his team from Appalachian State University in North Carolina say bouts of exercise spark a temporary rise in immune system cells circulating the body to fight off infections, like the common cold. In Nieman's report, he writes: "A one-year study of 547 adults showed a 23% reduction in upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) risk in those engaging in regular versus irregular physical activity".

Ming Kuo, Associate Professor at the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois, reviewed the literature on immune functioning for 18 health issues, including ADHD, anxiety, cardiovascular disease and allergies and linked an increase in immersion with natural surroundings with improvements related to these health concerns. For this reason, seek out natural surroundings in which you can get active, while also taking the time to unplug from digital devices so that you experience your surrounds with all of your senses.

4. Strengthen the heart

A sedentary lifestyle can double your risk of dying from heart disease and is almost as great a contributing factor as smoking. Your heart is a muscle, so you can strengthen it with exercise that gets the heart pumping and increases blood flow through the arteries, reducing the chances of developing blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

5. Reduce the risk of some cancers

There’s convincing research that shows regular, moderate physical activity can reduce the risk of colon, breast, prostate, uterine and lung cancer. This may be because exercise prevents obesity, reducing inflammation and hormone levels, and boosts insulin resistance and the immune system.

Man rock climbingMan rock climbing

6. Manage weight & reduce the risk of diabetes

Keeping active can help you manage or lose weight and reduce blood-glucose levels. Excess body fat, particularly if stored around the stomach, can increase the body’s resistance to insulin, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

7. Improve mood & reduce stress

Exercise releases endorphins, those euphoric feel-good chemicals that lift your mood and reduce anxiety. Some studies have shown that regular exercise can alleviate the symptoms of mild depression as well as some medication.

Man and woman on bikes on mountain trail in New ZealandMan and woman on bikes on mountain trail in New Zealand

8. Boost confidence

When you take up a new outdoor activity or exercise class, you’ll learn new skills and grow in confidence as your fitness improves. No matter your age, shape, weight or gender, feeling and seeing your body grow stronger each week with regular exercise can only improve your self-esteem.

9. Save money

Think of all the money you’ll save if you cycle to work and walk to the nearby shops instead of driving. Over time, you could be saving some serious big bucks – plus all the health benefits may mean you’ll save on medical costs in the future too.

Man surfingMan surfing

10. Have fun

You know what’s actually the best thing about exercising? It’s fun! Whether you’re playing a team sport with your best mates, walking the family pooch, bike riding along a tree-lined trail or swimming in the ocean, exercise will instantly lift your mood and make you feel happy because it's enjoyable.

So, get up off the couch, step away from your phone, and start having fun in Kathmandu's Active Range.

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