Unexpected Benefits of ExerciseYou know that working out regularly can improve your outward appearance (bring on the strapless dresses!), but it also improves your health in ways you that are less apparent, and I’m not only talking about the things your doctor has already lectured you on (lower cholesterol levels, improved circulation, and stronger immune system).

People who exercise regularly are shown to be more productive in the workplace. This is due in part because of the increase in heart rate, caused by exercising, which allows for better blood flow to the brain. You’ll have more energy and pay closer attention to detail. If you walk or bike instead of taking your car to work or to the grocery store, you will help to minimize your carbon footprint. So next time you’re at the gym, do a few extra biceps curls so that you’re strong enough to carry home all your (reusable!) bags or groceries!

Strong arms and hands will come in handy when you’re kneading piecrusts or stirring thick cookie batter. Plus, since you’ve been working out regularly, you can enjoy your home-cooked creations, guilt-free!. Wish you could have a little more legroom while you fly? Well, if you’re physically fit you’ll, be invited to sit in the coveted “emergency exit row” on an airplane. In the unlikely event of an emergency, you’ll be required to hoist open the emergency door, all other times, you’ll be able to stretch out your legs.

Yes, all that bending and twisting done in a yoga class can be applied in the bedroom! And yes, all the endurance and stamina that’s increased from cardio training can crossover to the bedroom.

Exercising with your best friend is a great way to stay motivated and have fun—especially when your best friend is of the four-legged variety. Do yourself and your dog a favor by skipping the routine walk around the block and instead trying one of these dog-friendly “sports” instead:

Hiking

A hike through the woods or up a mountain sure beats a romp in a caged-in doggy pen. Your pooch will love seeing (and chasing) the wild animals, and it’s great exercise. Plus, if you’re hiking solo, having Rover along can help you out in case any of those aforementioned wild animals happen to cause trouble. Just remember to check ahead of time to see what trails are dog-friendly.

Frisbee

This one’s a classic. Unfortunately, tossing a Frisbee with your dog will be a little one-sided, but it’s a great way work on your throwing abilities. If you live near water and have a more adventurous dog, toss the Frisbee out into the water. This is perfect on hot summer days because it will keep your pooch cool, and when he drops the Frisbee off at your feet and shakes himself dry, it’ll inevitably keep you cool too.

Rally obedience

Don’t let the stuffy canine competition judges keep your mutt from being Best in Show. Teach your dog to jump through hoops, run through tunnels, and jump over hurdles. Create your own makeshift obstacle course with hula-hoop and pylons, or bring your dog to an unoccupied playground to frolic.

Doga

Believe it or not, this trend seems to have stuck. The yoga studios for dogs that popped up a few years ago still have devoted yogis and dogis. Doga is a yoga class for owners and their pups. Some poses will have your dog leaning against you to add resistance to a stretch. Talk about taking your downward dog to a whole new level!

Visiting

While this isn’t a sport, visiting a retirement home with your dog provides many physical and psychological benefits for senior citizens. It can help people feel less lonely and depressed and it can even lower blood pressure—much like exercise. Do some research to see what type of certification or permission is necessary for the retirement homes in your neighborhood.

Running

Running is one of those great exercises that requires no equipment (save for a good pair of sneakers) and no need for lessons, a league, or years of practice to perfect. In fact, most people have an innate ability to run—and probably spent most of their school years running around the playground during recess—yet still they lack the confidence to give it a try as an adult. Even avid walkers or cyclists can feel trepidation about running, which is a shame since it’s a great cardiovascular exercise to add to the mix. There are all sorts of reasons why people shy away from jogging, but most of these barriers are easy to overcome. Here are a few tips for squelching those excuses:

You’re not in high school gym anymore, so don’t fret about some tough coach blowing their whistle and telling you to run faster; it’s not a race. Run at a pace you’re comfortable with—you should be able to carry on a conversation without too much trouble. Over time, your speed will gradually increase. If you prefer to exercise with someone, but don’t want to feel like you’re struggling to keep up, another good tip is to find a jogging group for beginners. There’s a good chance the other runners will be at a similar pace. If not, there’s usually an instructor who runs at the back who will make a great running buddy!

Running should leave you feeling energized, euphoric, strong, and healthy, not in pain! However, many adults find that pounding away on the cement can be very painful for their knees and other joints. The easiest way to overcome this is to ensure that your sneakers are still in good shape. Secondly, avoid running on concrete; instead, try running on rubber tracks, dirt trails, or if you want to amp up the workout and cut down on the impact, try running on the sand.

Sure, running on a treadmill can be boring, but running on the same roads isn’t much better. If you live near a park or beach with a network of paths, try to vary your route. Otherwise, add some variety to your jog: create a fun playlist with new songs, and keep your mind and body engaged by doing interval training. And of course, running with a pal or a pooch will keep things interesting.

Maybe you don’t have the stamina yet, but it won’t take long to build up your endurance. Just take your time with it; running is a lifelong journey, so don’t feel like you need to break records your first time out! To build up your endurance, start by interjecting some light running spurts during a power walk. Gradually, the running spurts will dominate and the walking bouts will become fewer and further apart. After just three sessions, you’ll already feel the improvements in your stamina.

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