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Bliss, Brainpower, & Other Obscure Benefits of Exercise

Many of us know that we should probably exercise more than we currently do, but all too often, when push comes to shove, we let the opportunity float on by. "There's always next week," we might say, or, "There's just not enough time," or, "My gut hasn't ballooned that much..."

It sounds like a booster of motivation is in order. Exercise's universally-known benefits -- weight-loss and improved cardiovascular health -- just aren't quite tempting enough. Perhaps there are some obscure advantages that might entice us to leave the comfy confines of the sofa and jump on the strident belt of the treadmill?

Well, there is. So check out this list of a few of exercise's lesser known benefits. One of these just might be enough to tip the scales of motivation in favor of heading to the gym:

1. Good for the Skin. Moderate to intense exercise makes you sweat, and sweating can purge your body of toxins that can clog pores in your skin. Oh yes, skin care never stunk so good. Just make sure to take a shower soon after your workout!

2. Exercise is Bliss. It's well documented that strenuous exercise can cause the bodily release of endorphins, epinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and endocannabinoids. One, some, or all of these chemicals are thought to contribute to a peculiar phenomenon known as "runner's high," a sensation characterized by strong feelings of happiness and euphoria.

Two theories are circulated which may explain "runner's high." One, the mechanism may have evolved to help our ancestors engage in long-distance cursorial hunting, which required tremendous endurance. And two, it may function to encourage habitual aerobic exercise, thus keeping us healthy.

3. Coregasm. A recent study from Dr. Debby Herbenick has shed new light on a phenomenon originally reported in 1953 via Dr. Alfred Kinsey's pioneering research into sex. Among women, the possibility of exercise-induced sexual pleasure is very real, and with it comes the traditional benefits associated with orgasm and sexual arousal: happiness, relaxation, etc. Activities known to induce coregasm include abdominal exercises, swimming, yoga, pull-ups, and weightlifting.

4. Exercise "Jogs the Brain." Past research has repeatedly demonstrated that frequent exercise can stave off dementia, boost memory, and stimulate neuron growth in certain regions of the brain. But until recently, most scientists were semi-stumped as to why. A new study from J. Mark Davis, a physiologist at the University of South Carolina, has discovered that habitual aerobic exercise prompts the production of additional mitochondria in brain cells.

Mitochondria are known as the "powerhouses" of cells, and higher numbers may enable the brain to work faster and more efficiently.

5. A Powerful Anti-Depressant. Countless studies have come to the same conclusion: exercise is very effective in the struggle against depression, potentially just as effective as pharmaceuticals. This likely has something to do with the various neurotransmitters and chemicals that the brain releases in response to exercise.