Hate to Wait? The 5 Immediate Benefits of Exercise Backed By Science
By Ben Rubin
By now, we all know that getting our sweat on does wonders for our physical and mental health. But that doesn’t make it any easier to get us off the couch, pause our Netflix marathon, and get our blood pumping—especially when six-pack abs don’t happen overnight. When asked, people give lots of reasons for why they work out: to gain more strength and endurance, manage weight, and look better.
Those motivators—the model-hot looks (or at least some improved definition) and health impacts (avoiding dad’s coronary bypass)—are the long-term benefits. But the reality is that it’s hard to get excited about long-term benefits. That’s just not the way our brains are built—we’re wired for instant gratification.
We struggle with delayed gratification in all parts of life, not just when it comes to achieving our fitness goals. In the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment, children were given the choice between eating a small snack now, or waiting 15 minutes for a larger snack. Two-thirds ended up eating the smaller snack that was in front of them rather than waiting for the bigger promised snack Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification. Mischel W, Ebbesen EB, Zeiss AR. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1972 Feb;21(2):204-18..
Similarly, in economics, researchers have found that when people are offered $50 now versus $100 a year later, most will opt for the instant reward.
I Want It Now! 5 Immediate Benefits of Exercise
While the long-term benefits of breaking a sweat are definitely worth the wait, there are also some powerful perks you’ll experience right away. And for many of us, those are much more likely to convince us to head to the gym right now (or at least after finishing this article).
1. Boost your mood.
You don’t need an hour-long, high-intensity workout to trigger a grin. Just 20 minutes of jogging has been found to elevate mood—and surprisingly the intensity doesn’t matter Relation of low and moderate intensity exercise with acute mood change in college joggers. Berger BG, Owen DR. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1998 Oct;87(2):611-21.. In fact, there’s reason to believe that pushing yourself too hard delays or reduces the lift in your mood Comparison of high and moderate intensity of strength training on mood and anxiety in older adults. Tsutsumi T, Don BM, Zaichkowsky LD. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 998 Dec;87(3 Pt 1):1003-11.. So choose a workout you’re comfortable with and ride that (exercise) high for hours.
2. Sleep like a baby.