Level Up – the Real Benefits of Exercise


“Move more” has been a common mantra for health for decades. But, what does that even mean? What kind of exercise counts? How much do I need?


Maybe the biggest question here is: “What are the true health benefits, anyway?”


I want to share with you the real, proven health benefits of exercise. Because there are some; there actually are lots!


Plus, if you do heavy workouts and need a replenishing drink, I’ve included a delicious recipe for you too.


The True Health Benefits of Exercise


Exercise. It can improve your health on all levels. We’re not just talking about being fitter and stronger. We’re talking about overall health and longevity.


Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep. And exercise prevents death from any cause (“all cause mortality”).


Convinced yet?


The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. They come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.


You don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health results. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough.


And you don’t have to do a particular kind of exercise. All four types of exercise have health benefits. They are:

  • Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming, skiing, hiking)
  • Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates)
  • Balance (standing on one foot, Tai Chi)
  • Flexibility (stretching, yoga)


Don’t forget, all exercise counts, even if it’s not doing a sport or in a gym. Weekend hikes, walking to the store and doing household chores also count towards your weekly exercise goal.


Let me take a minute to prove to you how healthy exercise really is. Here are a few key points.


Exercise for heart health


Exercise reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack.


Regular exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).


Exercise for brain health


Exercise can improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.


Exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory. It also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the “hippocampus”); this was shown mostly with aerobic exercise.


Exercise for muscle and bone health

Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones; this is particularly true for strength exercises. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly.


PRO TIP: And don’t forget that balance exercises and Tai Chi can help prevent falls.


Exercise for diabetes


People with diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control).


Exercise does this because by contracting your muscles, you’re fueling them with sugar in your blood. This helps to manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise.




These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits of exercise.  By doing just 30 minutes 5 days/week, you can vastly improve your health. Since there are different benefits for different types, try mixing up what you do throughout the week. You don’t even need an “official” workout. Walking to the grocery store or doing household chores can count too.


“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”  That’s my motto!


If you’re just starting, then pick something you enjoy, get some accountability (exercise tracker or a buddy), and start.


What’s your favorite exercise and how often do you do it?


Recipe (exercise recovery): Coconut Water Refresher

Serves 2


1 cup coconut water

2 cups watermelon

½ tsp lime juice

1 dash salt

1 cup ice

2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)



Blend the first four ingredients until well mixed. Add ice and pulse until ice is crushed.


Pour into glasses or water bottle and add chia seeds. Shake/stir before drinking.


Serve & enjoy!


Tip: The chia seeds add extra fiber, protein, and omega-3s.



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That Turnaround Moment

Remember that time when…?

I sure do!  One of my biggest #momfails happened when my kids were quite young, maybe 4 & 6 years old.  It was just before Christmas.  I wasn’t allowed to spend much on Christmas (yes, I just said that… “not allowed”  and it still makes me cringe when I think about it, but that’s a story for another day!)  I’d been hoping we would all go to town as a family a couple days before Christmas, that the kids’ dad would distract them while I picked up the few gifts I’d wanted to give them and buy some special treats for our holiday dinner on the 25th.  I’d put all my eggs in that basket so to speak and I’ll give you one guess what happened – you got it!  My shopping trip for all of our seasonal celebration items was a bust.

Three days before Christmas we all got the flu – it was a rough one!  We were all violently ill for 48 hours.  I was able to get myself down to the drugstore and the dollar store in our village on Christmas Eve to get some stocking stuffers for the kids to enjoy in the morning, but our nice Christmas dinner was not going to happen.  We didn’t even have a tree so we cut a small one down off the edge of our yard and put some old decorations and pipe-cleaner ornaments on it.  (I still have those pipe-cleaner ornaments we made and the kids & I put them on our tree every year!)

I was upset with myself for not planning ahead.  I couldn’t believe I’d left everything to the last minute.  I was too ill and weak to do any baking for Christmas… not even shortbread cookies!  It wasn’t what I’d hoped for but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  The kids were so good about it too.  We’d always had very low-key holiday celebrations so it really wasn’t too different for them at that young age.  They were actually kind of stoked because they got to have pizza on Christmas which for a 4 & 6 year old was pretty cool, lol!  It all worked out, honestly, they only remember that they had pizza they don’t even remember being sick or just a few stocking stuffers. I played games with the kids, we watched our favourite Christmas shows, and we got cozy around the woodstove and enjoyed our Hot Cinnamons with marshmallows (like Hot Chocolate only made with cinnamon spice instead of cocoa).  I love my kids so much!  I’ve always been able to explain things to them and they are so understanding.  And above all, whatever happens, the three of us take time to find something to be grateful for when things are not going smoothly to help us keep our perspective.

So, how did the Mom who didn’t have anything really ready for Christmas move forward from all that?  Well, I made sure that I planned ahead the next year.  And the year after that.  And every year since!  NO WAY was I ever going to get caught up like that again. I literally create a Countdown to Christmas List every November. I not only make sure that I have as much ready as possible ahead of time (like by December 20th), but I also space it out over several weeks to help take the stress out of the season and to lessen the financial burden by spreading it out instead of doing it all in one go.  My list is my seasonal lifeline!  Out of my disastrous Christmas all those years ago, a brilliant, easy plan was formed and it serves me well every year.  Just call me the Christmas Phoenix who rose from the ashes – Merry & Bright!

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