16 Exercise Benefits (Other Than Weight Loss)

You might start an exercise habit with a particular goal in mind, such as weight loss, but exercise can have a variety of other benefits for your overall health.

1. Exercise Can Boost Your Mood


Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash

Exercise releases feel-good chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. Some studies show that exercise might be as effective a anti-depressants for mild to moderate depression. As you meet fitness goals, even small ones, it can help to increase your confidence. Some of the other benefits in this list can also in turn improve your mood.

2. Exercise Can Reduce Stress


Photo by mr lee on Unsplash

Exercise can distract you from your worries. It can also help to loosen muscles that have become tense. Exercise that has a social aspect, group classes or exercising with a buddy, can have emotional benefits, plus exercising in the beauty of nature can also have a positive effect on stress.

3. Exercise Can Soothe Anxiety


Photo by Gustavo Torres on Unsplash

In addition to the points above, the act of exercise can release tension in the body. Exercise can also reduce stress hormones. Some studies show that exercise can reduce sensitivity to anxiety responses in the body which might lead to fewer panic attacks.

4. Exercise Can Increase Your Energy


Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

A study by the University of Georgia showed that those with a sedentary lifestyle had boosted energy after starting an exercise regimen. Exercise improves blood flow and cardiovascular health, and that may be part of it. Exercise also stimulates the production of mitochondria in cells. Mitochondria produce ATP, a chemical the body uses as energy.

I’ve experienced it myself. When I’m regularly doing my dance fitness, I’ll feel like dancing everywhere I hear music, even the grocery store. I have to say that I’m usually discreet and haven’t created any big scenes like the grocery store scene in the animated film, Sing.

5. Exercise Can Boost Your Creativity


Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash

A study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed that those who exercise scored higher on a creativity test than sedentary people. The study showed that physical activity seems to positively affect convergent and divergent thinking, used in problem solving.

6. Exercise Helps Prevent Diseases and Health Conditions


Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Exercise can be helpful in the prevention of a lot of illnesses and conditions. It can help prevent the development of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure as well as colon and breast cancer. Exercise reduces blood sugar, raises healthy HDL cholesterol and lowers unhealthy LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, all of which can prevent disease or the progression of it. It also helps to keep muscles, bones and joints healthy and can lower blood pressure in those who already have high blood pressure.

7. Exercise Can Boost Your Immune System


Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

Exercise flushes bacteria out of the lungs which may prevent colds and flu. It also may prevent the growth of bacteria. It also gives a boost to antibodies and white blood cells.

8. Exercise is Good for Muscles and Bones


Photo by Derek Owens on Unsplash

Exercise strengthens muscle which then helps your bones to stay strong and prevents osteoporosis.

16 exercise benefits (other than weight loss.) Image shows women using dumbbells in an exercise class.

9. Exercise is Good for Your Skin


Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash

Exercise increases blood flow to the skin. According to one study, exercise not only keeps skin looking young, it can also help reverse aging in those who start exercise later in life.

Lately, YouTube has been recommending videos to me on unusually fit senior women involved in different sports or forms of exercise. I’ve noticed these women seem to have youthful skin as well.

10. Exercise is Good for Your Brain


Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash

A study by the University of British Columbia showed that those who get regular aerobic exercise increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in verbal learning and memory. Other research suggests that exercise can slow down the loss of brain cells through aging.

11. Exercise is Good for Your Lungs


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash


Exercise helps the body deliver oxygen. It can improve lung capacity and endurance and can reduce breathlessness.

12. Exercise Can Increase Your Flexibility


Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash

Many different exercises can help your flexibility, and some like Pilates are specifically designed for that. Dancing is also very good for flexibility.

13. Exercise Can Improve Your Balance

Increased balance, one of several exercise benefits. Woman is balanced  with one leg stretched out behind her. l

I’ve personally tried a variety of exercises over the years, including ballet based workouts and kickboxing. Although one of these seems gentle and graceful and the other aggressive, both involve balancing on one leg. With practice, balance gets easier.

14. Exercise May Help You Be More Productive


Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and can help you feel more alert. The exercise benefits to the brain and energy levels, listed elsewhere in this article, also contribute to greater productivity.

15. Exercise Can Help You Get Better Sleep


Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash


Exercise benefits your ability to sleep as well. According to the Sleep Foundation, exercise raises your body temperature and the drop in temperature after exercise may help for a better sleep. The mental benefits of exercise may also help you get better sleep.

16. Exercise Helps You Live Longer

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

If exercise has all of the benefits above, it makes sense that it could also lengthen your life.

My First Week with the Firm Express Workouts

This past week, I started something new in my rotation of workout videos, The Firm Express.

Over the years, my relationship to exercise has been an interesting one. At times, I have been extremely gung ho and dedicated to exercise, with a weight loss goal in mind, and, as dedicated I was, still allowed life to get in the way and to gradually get out of my habits. Now, I am attempting to get more in the mind frame of a lifestyle change rather than a yo-yo dieter.

I have been back in a good exercise pattern for a while now and decided to intensify it, at least twice or three times a week. Some of the workouts I have seem a little easy now and not as challenging as they could be, while others are still a bit challenging. I was already familiar with other workouts from The Firm and had a lot of success with them in the past.

13 DVDs, Four Cycles of Three Weekly Workouts

The Firm Express is a 13 DVD workout. There are four cycles, a new one for each week of the month, three different workouts per week. These are Cycle 1: Ignite, led by instructor Emily Welsh, Cycle 2: Accelerate, led by Rebekah Sturkie, Cycle 3: TurboCharge, led by Alison Davis McLain and Cycle 4:Overdrive, led by Kelsie Daniels. Click on the image below to see on Amazon.

For these workouts, you will also need a set of dumbbells. The instructors recommend 3, 5 and 8 pound dumbbells to start. The set below has exactly those weights with a nice rack for storage. Again, click the image to see on Amazon.

Each workout is only 21 minutes long but is pretty intense. You get a cardio workout alongside strengthening/sculpting exercise. This combination should be very effective in improving fitness and burning fat. You work every muscle and do a lot of full-body exercises that work arms, legs and core at the same time.

Whenever I view anything on Amazon, I like to look at both the highest and lowest reviews. For this DVD set, the biggest complaint among the one-star reviews was that these are not workouts for beginners.

I think these workouts are definitely challenging and may not be the best choice if you haven’t done any form of exercise in ages or if you have a lot of joint or other physical issues, but I don’t really agree with the one-star critics.

I have to say that, due to the challenge, I did not execute everything perfectly in the first cycle of workouts, but I am not discouraged. I actually pause the video if I need more of a breather, and I don’t think I or you need to feel badly about that. Even if it’s not perfect, you are still getting a better workout than if you had not tried at all. There are modifications to make things a little easier and lower impact, and Emily always pointed out one of the instructors who demonstrates the modified moves. Conversely, I’m sure the instructors probably use heavier weights themselves than what they recommend for beginners. These workouts can be done on many levels.

I really like that there are 12 different workouts and that each one is varied and not too similar. I seem to like endless variety in both exercise and eating. Once I have an exercise routine memorized and it begins to feel easy, it also becomes less interesting.

I won’t give you a breakdown of every exercise, but I’ll show you a few to give you an idea. Below is one exercise from the first workout, a dumbbell row with leg lift, so you are working on balance as well as strengthening all sorts of muscles at once.

Row and leg lift from The Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Cardio and Sculpt, with Emily Welsh

Then there are lunges with arm rows.

Row and lunge from Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Cardio and Sculpt, with Emily Welsh

Then, there were alternating pushups with arm rows. You can see the woman at the right is demonstrating a knee pushup, which is what I did.

Pushup and row from Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Cardio and Sculpt, with Emily Welsh
Pushup and row, from The Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, with Emily Welsh

Each video also has periods of eight second minibursts of intense exercise, which are followed by 12 seconds of rest, just toe tapping. I may have paused the video occasionally, but I did make it through all of the bursts. Often, there was a series of rounds for these bursts with each new one intensifying the exercise a bit. So, these squats below …

Squat minibursts, from The Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, with Emily Welsh

became squats with little hops and then squats with bigger jumps. The woman at the right never came off the ground. I did something in between, little hops and then little hops again. I didn’t attempt any big jumps this time through.

Little squat hops, from The Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Cardio and Sculpt, with Emily Welsh

In the second video, there was a cool little move called a hitch kick, which I don’t feel I mastered but would like to improve. You pull one knee up, then kick with the opposite leg as you pull the knee down.

Hitch kick, from The Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Cardio, with Emily Welsh

There were also some kickboxing moves in the second Cardio video, like this jab punch below and some kicks.

Jab punch, from the Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Cardio, with Emily Welsh

In the third video, there were kicks with an overhead press. You can see you use a lot of different muscles at once in these exercises.

Overhead press and kick, from The Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Sculpt, with Emily Welsh

In this one, there was a series where you alternated a plie, twist to lunge to the side and twist to the front again to do an upright row.

Plie with dumbbells, from The Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Sculpt, with Emily Welsh
Lunge with dumbbells, from The Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Sculpt, with Emily Welsh
Upright row, from The Firm Express, Cycle 1 Ignite, Sculpt, with Emily Welsh

I definitely had sufficient challenge, and I am feeling good. I am feeling stronger, more energetic, more flexible and just really good. Some of that is not just a result from this one week of exercise but a cumulative effect from my recent efforts to intensify my workouts, including using some of my older workouts from the Firm. I’ve had some soreness but not unbearable soreness. I developed really bad, almost crippling soreness after trying out HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts twice before.

Some Amazon reviewers expressed their disappointment that the Firm seems to promise you will lose 30 pounds in 15 days with these workouts, since that seems to be almost an impossible feat. I’m sure that this promise works, supposedly, if you are following their diet plan as well. I am reducing calories but am not following any official diet plan from the Firm. I will be very, very surprised if I lose 15 pounds in 30 days. I do expect that, if I keep this up, I will lose weight and improve my condition in a variety of ways.

Salsa Dance for Fitness and Fun

Latin style dance fitness can be a lot of fun and is a good workout for legs and core muscles. I’ve had a lot of fun with my Crunch Cardio Salsa workout DVD. The fitness instructor on the video is Giselle Roque de Escobar, who exudes a lot of enthusiasm.

The total workout is 40 minutes long and is broken down into five different dance routine segments, in addition to the warm-up and cool-down. These include the salsa , merengue , merengue salsa, samba and Latin funk combinations. You can choose the different chapters from the main menu and can either do the full workout or do two to three of your favorite dance segments along with the warm-up and cool-down. The versatility is nice, because there may be days when you’re a little sore or not up to a full length workout but still want exercise.

Arms probably do not get the same sort of workout as your legs do, but there are arm movements, many of which are graceful and Latin-inspired. There are “flick arms,” (a wrist flick movement,) graceful twirling flamenco arms during the cool-down and even a move where you shake some imaginary maracas. After returning to this DVD from a long break, I felt it in my shoulders and upper back which must be from the arm movements.

The instructor is easy to follow. She’ll demonstrate the footwork, sometimes moves just as simple as stepping out to the side, or alternating feet stepping forward, then add hip and arm movements. There is, of course, a lot of hip movement in Latin dance.

Giselle teaching hip movement
Source: YouTube


Although some of the moves I described are done in place, you do move around quite a bit for this workout: frontwards and back, side to side and even on a diagonal. I did manage to modify things a bit and make it work for a somewhat small space. As long as you are moving at the right tempo, you can still get good exercise whether you are moving in place or in the space around you.

One favorite move is what she calls a “modified mambo,” where you turn sideways and push up on the ball of your foot for a hip roll, then move splayed hands out to the sides, as Giselle says, “as if you were presenting your hips.”

The most energetic segment is the samba segment. The rhythm for this section is quite fast, and you do what Giselle describes as “little skips.” You aren’t lifting both feet off the floor at once, but the step has a lot of bounce to it. The workout is low impact throughout, but there are a few little hops here and there too.

There is a drummer, introduced as Ravi, drumming the beat in the background behind the dancers. The DVD cover describes it as “live drums,” but a recording of drums isn’t live in the truest sense, is it? What is more accurate to say is that, while the music is canned, the drums were live at the time of the recording and has a live feel to it. The drumming, I think, does help you get a good feeling for the beat easily.

With Amazon Prime, you can get the DVD for $8.22. Click on the image link below, if you are interested.

You can also stream the workout with Amazon Prime with a $6.99 per month subscription to the BeFit channel. A free trial is possible.

Latin and Disco Dance with The Firm

Dance fitness is my favorite form of exercise, and, over the years, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of dance fitness DVDs and Just Dance games for Wii. I’ve had The Firm: Cardio Dance Slim Down DVD for a while, but it’s a favorite. It was first released in 2006 and re-released in 2013. What makes things a bit confusing is that The Firm released a different DVD by the same name in 2015, this time with a different instructor. The one I’m reviewing is led by Allie DelRio Pointer.

The workout is 45 minutes long and, aside from warm-up and cool-down, has three dance segments in different dance styles. The second is Latin dance, and the third one is disco. The first dance style is un-named both on the packaging and by the instructor in the video. Perhaps, it would be considered club or modern dancing. I’m not quite sure, but it is fun.


Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

This video has more interesting warm-up and cool-down segments than in many workouts. I’ve seen so many that use different combinations of very similar stretches. These feel a little more choreographed and have a few interesting and fun moves. For instance, you “butterfly”your legs in the warm-up, a kind of move where you slide on the balls of your feet and alternately point your knees inwards and outwards. In the cool-down, you do the “jerk,” a ’60s dance move, for a bit and also a sweep kick where you balance on one leg and sweep the other around in a circle.

It’s considered a low-impact workout, but there are a few little hops. In the first dance segment, there’s a cool move where you give a low kick followed by bringing both knees up in a little hop and then quickly followed by a dirt-off-the-shoulder move. (You just brush imaginary dust from your shoulder.)

In each dance segment, Allie starts out teaching one dance move, then adding on with another move and continually repeating the sequence as new moves are added until you have a full routine. I’m a little bit experienced at this, but I thought it was easy to learn.


Photo by Isaiah McClean on Unsplash

The Latin dance segment is also fun and features mambo and cha cha inspired steps. There are even some cha cha moves in the disco segment.


Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash

I really enjoy the disco segment. Whether you are hoping for some ’70s flashback music or really hoping there won’t be, those tunes are not featured. Many of these fitness DVDs don’t have the music license to play music hits either new or old. The music throughout sounds like some electronic instrumentals. You can get a feeling for it with a little preview clip below.

I find that locomotion (kick ball change) move, in the clip above, to be one of the most fun out of the whole . I don’t know why. It just feels good to do those kicks.

By the way, I think Allie misspeaks in the clip when she says her favorite move is the cha cha “with legs.” I think she means to say “with arms.” It would be impossible to cha cha without legs. 🙂

Over all, the workout is very fun and varied, low impact and not too overwhelming if you are a beginner or at intermediate level. It works a variety of muscles.

You can buy the DVD on Amazon with the link below. I do get a little commission as an Amazon affiliate, but that does not affect the price which is a pretty good one.


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash