The benefits of exercise are powerful. Not only does it have a direct and immediate impact on our well being – by making us happier, less anxious and mentally sharper. But physical activity also improves our lives in the long term -keeping us healthy, staving off disease and by changing us at our core, at the level of our gene-expression. Exercise reveals our perfect selves.
Personally, I think we have a moral imperative to exercise. But that’s probably not why we do it. I am intimately aware of how exercise improves my cognitive functioning, because I’ve tested it. I am intimately aware of how it improves my self-esteem and mood, because I regularly experience it.
Our ability to make good decisions comes down to, at least in part, how we feel. If we are overweight, weak and insecure in our bodies, our ability to make the right decision is greatly diminished. It is easier to make difficult decisions if we feel our bodies and minds are strong.
But I still care if sit-ups make my gluteus maximus (my ass) look firm.
Exercise reveals to us our perfect selves. That version of us that is untroubled by the expectations of society, and unphased by defeat. It gives us strength and conviction that flows from within.
But enough moralizing. In this article I will make make clear the numerous research backed benefits of exercise.
1. Exercise Raises Your Self-Esteem
In men, women, and children it has been found that exercise increases self-esteem1Mousavi Gilani, S. R., & Dashipour, A. (2017). The effects of physical activity on self-esteem: A comparative study. International Journal of High Risk Behaviors and Addiction, 6(1).
https://sites.kowsarpub.com/ijhrba/articles/13221.html 2Elavsky, S. (2010). Longitudinal examination of the exercise and self-esteem model in middle-aged women. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 32(6), 862-880. 3 Lees, C., & Hopkins, J. (2013). Peer reviewed: effect of aerobic exercise on cognition, academic achievement, and psychosocial function in children: a systematic review of randomized control trials. Preventing chronic disease, 10. . Also self-esteem, or confidence as it is colloquially known, is highly valued by both women and men as a highly attractive trait in a potential mate 4Buunk, B. P., Dijkstra, P., Fetchenhauer, D., & Kenrick, D. T. (2002). Age and gender differences in mate selection criteria for various involvement levels. Personal relationships, 9(3), 271-278..
2. Physically Fit People are Rated to Be More Attractive
Exercise helps you look physically more attractive. In fact, according to one study upper body strength accounts for most of what is valued in male bodies, and that there is a substanial correlation between bodily attractiveness and physical fitness 5Sell, A., Lukazsweski, A. W., & Townsley, M. (2017). Cues of upper body strength account for most of the variance in men’s bodily attractiveness. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284(1869), 20171819. 6Hönekopp, J., Rudolph, U., Beier, L., Liebert, A., & Müller, C. (2007). Physical attractiveness of face and body as indicators of physical fitness in men. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(2), 106-111.. And another study showed that attractive people are perceived to be more intelligent and honest7Dion, K., Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of personality and social psychology, 24(3), 285.. So, although you should try to be as intelligent and honest as you can be, it doesn’t hurt to also be physically fit to bolster that perception.
3. Help You Manage Your Weight
When it comes to weight management diet is king. But exercise has been shown to provide some help towards keeping your bodyweight within a healthy range and preventing obesity 8Haskell, W. L., Lee, I. M., Pate, R. R., Powell, K. E., Blair, S. N., Franklin, B. A., … & Bauman, A. (2007). Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation, 116(9), 1081.. The act of exercise helps burn calories, maintaining muscles also burns more calories than the equivalent of maintaining fat. It regulates appetite and helps you make better dietary decisions. It is physical inactivity that is a sizeable factor in weight gain and obesity 9Gim, M. N., & Choi, J. H. (2016). The effects of weekly exercise time on VO2max and resting metabolic rate in normal adults. Journal of physical therapy science, 28(4), 1359-1363. 10Eriksson, J., Taimela, S., & Koivisto, V. A. (1997). Exercise and the metabolic syndrome. Diabetologia, 40(2), 125-135.. Exercise increases your metabolic rate, which means your body will burn more calories and that helps you lose weight 11Church, T. (2011). Exercise in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 53(6), 412-418. 12Gilliat-Wimberly, M., Manore, M. M., Woolf, K., D SWAN, P. A. M. E. L. A., & Carroll, S. S. (2001). Effects of habitual physical activity on the resting metabolic rates and body compositions of women aged 35 to 50 years. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101(10), 1181-1188. The combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise supports a fast metabolism (burning more calories per day), because of this you maintain your muscle mass and experience weight loss 13Kelley, G. A., & Kelley, K. S. (2013). Effects of exercise in the treatment of overweight and obese children and adolescents: a systematic review of meta-analyses. Journal of obesity, 2013. 14Kraemer, W. J., Volek, J. S., Clark, K. L., Gordon, S. E., Puhl, S. M., Koziris, L. P., … & Sebastianelli, W. J. (1999). Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 31(9), 1320-1329. 15Ciolac, E. G., & Guimarães, G. V. (2004). Exercício físico e síndrome metabólica. Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte, 10, 319-324..
4. Increase Energy Levels
Feeling tired? Lethargic? Exercise is a potential solution for you. Exercise increases your overall stamina. That is for instance heart and lung function. Exercises makes you muscles stronger, which means doing chores or work won’t be as hard, as if it would be when you are unfit. Numerous studies in healthy and unhealthy people have found that exercise decreases fatique and increases the feeling of having energy 16Puetz, T. W. (2006). Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue. Sports medicine, 36(9), 767-780. 17O’Connor, P. J., & Puetz, T. W. (2005). Chronic physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 37(2), 299-305. 18Larun, L., Brurberg, K. G., Odgaard-Jensen, J., & Price, J. R. (2019). Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (10). 19Payne, C., Wiffen, P. J., & Martin, S. (2012). Interventions for fatigue and weight loss in adults with advanced progressive illness. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1). 20Larun, L., Brurberg, K. G., Odgaard-Jensen, J., & Price, J. R. (2019). Exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (10). 21Payne, C., Wiffen, P. J., & Martin, S. (2012). Interventions for fatigue and weight loss in adults with advanced progressive illness. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1)..
5. Exercise Helps Relieve Stress and Anxiety
Aerobic exercise promotes short- and long-term positive feelings and reduces negative feelings. It also blunts feelings of short-term psychological stress 22Basso, J. C., & Suzuki, W. A. (2017). The effects of acute exercise on mood, cognition, neurophysiology, and neurochemical pathways: a review. Brain Plasticity, 2(2), 127-152. Aerobic exercise functions like a natural antidepressant and euphoriant Cunha, 23G. S., Ribeiro, J. L., & Oliveira, A. R. (2008). Níveis de beta-endorfina em resposta ao exercício e no sobretreinamento. Arquivos Brasileiros de Endocrinologia & Metabologia, 52, 589-598. 24Boecker, H., Sprenger, T., Spilker, M. E., Henriksen, G., Koppenhoefer, M., Wagner, K. J., … & Tolle, T. R. (2008). The runner’s high: opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain. Cerebral cortex, 18(11), 2523-2531. 25Josefsson, T., Lindwall, M., & Archer, T. (2014). Physical exercise intervention in depressive disorders: Meta‐analysis and systematic review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 24(2), 259-272. 26Rosenbaum, S., Tiedemann, A., Sherrington, C., Curtis, J., & Ward, P. B. (2014). Physical activity interventions for people with mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 75(9), 0-0.. Exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Physical activity helps you brain release some molecules that may leave you feeling happier and relaxed. Even some walking or yoga may help decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. Regular exercise may also enhance how you feel about yourself (including your looks), which is useful for forming confidence. During exercise, your brain releases chemicals that can improve your mood and make you feel more relaxed.27Ensari, I., Sandroff, B. M., & Motl, R. W. (2016). Effects of single bouts of walking exercise and yoga on acute mood symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis. International journal of MS care, 18(1), 1-8. It does this by bring about changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. Possibly by increasing brain sensitivity to serotonine and norephinephrine, which are known to reduce feelings of depression 28Anderson, E. H., & Shivakumar, G. (2013). Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Frontiers in psychiatry, 4, 27.. Regardless of the intensity of your exercise, an antidepressant effect has been found, at least in women 29Meyer, J. D., Koltyn, K. F., Stegner, A. J., Kim, J. S., & Cook, D. B. (2016). Influence of exercise intensity for improving depressed mood in depression: a dose-response study. Behavior therapy, 47(4), 527-537.. An increase in negative mood has also been found in otherwise healthy men and women who stopped exercising for 2 weeks 30Poole, L., Hamer, M., Wawrzyniak, A. J., & Steptoe, A. (2011). The effects of exercise withdrawal on mood and inflammatory cytokine responses in humans. Stress, 14(4), 439-447..
6. Exercise Helps You Sleep Better
Exercise makes you tired, which is helpful if you need to fall asleep. Not only does it help fall asleep faster, but it also makes your sleep deeper. If you have an anxious mind then as we know exercise helps you reduce that and by extension let you relax31Driver, H. S., & Taylor, S. R. (2000). Exercise and sleep. Sleep medicine reviews, 4(4), 387-402. 32Kredlow, M. A., Capozzoli, M. C., Hearon, B. A., Calkins, A. W., & Otto, M. W. (2015). The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review. Journal of behavioral medicine, 38(3), 427-449. Exercising regularly helps you sleep regularly. For instance one study found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week can improve sleep quality up to 65%33Loprinzi, P. D., & Cardinal, B. J. (2011). Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep, NHANES 2005–2006. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 4(2), 65-69. https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1755296611000317.. In one small study it also helped 17 people with insomnia sleep longer, deeper, and feel more energized throughout the day34Reid, K. J., Baron, K. G., Lu, B., Naylor, E., Wolfe, L., & Zee, P. C. (2010). Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep medicine, 11(9), 934-940. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20813580/.. Exercise seems also beneficial to older people who also often struggle with getting quality sleep 35Reid, K. J., Baron, K. G., Lu, B., Naylor, E., Wolfe, L., & Zee, P. C. (2010). Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep medicine, 11(9), 934-940. 36Santos, R. D., Viana, V. A. R., Boscolo, R. A., Marques, V. G., Santana, M. G. D., Lira, F. S. D., … & De Mello, M. T. (2012). Moderate exercise training modulates cytokine profile and sleep in elderly people. Cytokine, 60(3), 731-735. 37Karimi, S., Soroush, A., Towhidi, F., Makhsosi, B. R., Karimi, M., Jamehshorani, S., … & Abdi, A. (2016). Surveying the effects of an exercise program on the sleep quality of elderly males. Clinical interventions in aging, 11, 997..
Some mechanisms that are thought to be responsible for the benefits of exercise on sleep are that exercise stimulates restorative processes during sleep, and that the increase in body temperature during exercise is thought to improve sleep quality by dropping it during sleep 38Driver, H. S., & Taylor, S. R. (2000). Exercise and sleep. Sleep medicine reviews, 4(4), 387-402. 39Santos, R. D., Viana, V. A. R., Boscolo, R. A., Marques, V. G., Santana, M. G. D., Lira, F. S. D., … & De Mello, M. T. (2012). Moderate exercise training modulates cytokine profile and sleep in elderly people. Cytokine, 60(3), 731-735.. All in all it seems that aerobic exercise is highly recommended but aerobic exercise in combination with strength training (resistance training can also help improve sleep quality 40Bonardi, J. M., Lima, L. G., Campos, G. O., Bertani, R. F., Moriguti, J. C., Ferriolli, E., & Lima, N. K. (2016). Effect of different types of exercise on sleep quality of elderly subjects. Sleep Medicine, 25, 122-129..
8. Better Sex Life
Exercise can improve your libido (sexual desire) 41Levin, S. (1993). Does exercise enhance sexuality?. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 21(3), 199-203. 42McNamara, E. R., Alfred-Thomas, J., & Freedland, S. J. (2010). 1500 EXERCISE CORRELATES TO HIGHER SEXUAL FUNCTION SCORES IN A COHORT OF HEALTHY MEN. The Journal of Urology, 183(4S), e578-e578. 43Young, M., & Penhollow, T. (2004). Sexual desirability and sexual performance: Does exercise and fitness really matter. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 7.. It has also been shown to enhance sexual function and performance in men and women. Furthermore, in men, it has been shown to reduce the risk for erectile dysfunction or improve the condition in those that have it 44Begot, I., Peixoto, T. C., Gonzaga, L. R., Bolzan, D. W., Papa, V., Carvalho, A. C., … & Guizilini, S. (2015). A home-based walking program improves erectile dysfunction in men with an acute myocardial infarction. The American journal of cardiology, 115(5), 571-575. 45White, J. R., Case, D. A., McWhirter, D., & Mattison, A. M. (1990). Enhanced sexual behavior in exercising men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19(3), 193-209.. In middle aged women it has been found that including more demanding exercise such as sprints, boot camps and weight training, increased the frequency of orgasms they experienced 46Ojanlatva, A., Mäkinen, J., Helenius, H., Korkeila, K., Sundell, J., & Rautava, P. (2006). Sexual activity and perceived health among Finnish middle-aged women. Health and quality of life outcomes, 4(1), 1-10..
Exercise boosts your confidence and reduces feelings of insecurity, which are both very desireable traits in sexual partners, but also instrumental in order to enjoy sex more. Furthermore it can improve sexual performance, pleasure and even the frequency of sexual activity47Cawood, E. H., & Bancroft, J. (1996). Steroid hormones, the menopause, sexuality and well-being of women. Psychological Medicine, 26(5), 925-936. 48McNamara, E. R., Alfred-Thomas, J., & Freedland, S. J. (2010). 1500 EXERCISE CORRELATES TO HIGHER SEXUAL FUNCTION SCORES IN A COHORT OF HEALTHY MEN. The Journal of Urology, 183(4S), e578-e578 .
9. Improve Skin Health
Regular moderate physical activity can improve skin health by increasing your body’s production of antioxidants, which help protect cell functioning, which also help protect cells and reduce the rate of age related decline in skin health49Kruk, J., & Duchnik, E. (2014). Oxidative stress and skin diseases: possible role of physical activity. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 15(2), 561-568. Gomez-Cabrera, M. C., Domenech, E., & Viña, J. (2008). Moderate exercise is an antioxidant: upregulation of antioxidant genes by training. Free radical biology and medicine, 44(2), 126-131. 50Crane, J. D., MacNeil, L. G., Lally, J. S., Ford, R. J., Bujak, A. L., Brar, I. K., … & Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2015). Exercise‐stimulated interleukin‐15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and aging. Aging cell, 14(4), 625-634..
10. Helps You Live a Longer Healthier Life
A passive lifestyle has been shown to be a major cause of chronic disease51 Booth, F. W., Roberts, C. K., & Laye, M. J. (2012). Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases. Comprehensive physiology, 2(2), 1143. 52https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241367/. Specifically, exercise has been shown to reduce risk for some cancers, such as lung, breast, uterine or colon cancer 53Ballard-Barbash, R., Friedenreich, C. M., Courneya, K. S., Siddiqi, S. M., McTiernan, A., & Alfano, C. M. (2012). Physical activity, biomarkers, and disease outcomes in cancer survivors: a systematic review. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 104(11), 815-840.. Physical activity also improves insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular fitness, body composition, but also decrease blood pressure and blood fat levels 54Slentz, C. A., Houmard, J. A., & Kraus, W. E. (2009). Exercise, abdominal obesity, skeletal muscle, and metabolic risk: evidence for a dose response. Obesity, 17(S3), S27-S33. 55Duscha, B. D., Slentz, C. A., Johnson, J. L., Houmard, J. A., Bensimhon, D. R., Knetzger, K. J., & Kraus, W. E. (2005). Effects of exercise training amount and intensity on peak oxygen consumption in middle-age men and women at risk for cardiovascular disease. Chest, 128(4), 2788-2793. 56Halbert, J. A., Silagy, C. A., Finucane, P., Withers, R. T., Hamdorf, P. A., & Andrews, G. R. (1997). The effectiveness of exercise training in lowering blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials of 4 weeks or longer. Journal of human hypertension, 11(10), 641-649. 57Larrydurstine, J., & Haskell, W. L. (1994). Effects of exercise training on plasma lipids and lipoproteins. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 22(1), 477-522..58 It also prevents belly fat, which is associated with increase in risk for diabetes and heart disease59Ross, R., Dagnone, D., Jones, P. J., Smith, H., Paddags, A., Hudson, R., & Janssen, I. (2000). Reduction in obesity and related comorbid conditions after diet-induced weight loss or exercise-induced weight loss in men: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of internal medicine, 133(2), 92-103. 60Ross, R., Janssen, I., Dawson, J., Kungl, A. M., Kuk, J. L., Wong, S. L., … & Hudson, R. (2004). Exercise‐induced reduction in obesity and insulin resistance in women: a randomized controlled trial. Obesity research, 12(5), 789-798..
All in all moderate (300 min) and vigorous exercise per week (75 min) increases your odds of healthy aging, living longer, build stronger bones and muscles, which also help you reduce the risk of falls, which is a major concern for elderly people61Haskell, W. L., Lee, I. M., Pate, R. R., Powell, K. E., Blair, S. N., Franklin, B. A., … & Bauman, A. (2007). Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation, 116(9), 1081. 62Anton, S. D., Hida, A., Mankowski, R., Layne, A., Solberg, L. M., Mainous, A. G., & Buford, T. (2018). Nutrition and exercise in sarcopenia. Current Protein and Peptide Science, 19(7), 649-667.. 63Zulfarina, M. S., Sharkawi, A. M., AQILAH-SN, Z. S., Mokhtar, S. A., Nazrun, S. A., & Naina-Mohamed, I. (2016). Influence of adolescents’ physical activity on bone mineral acquisition: a systematic review article. Iranian journal of public health, 45(12), 1545.
High-impact exercise, such as gynmastics, running, soccer and basketball have shown to promote higher bone density than non-impact sports like swimming and cycling. Although better for bone density, high impact sports like soccer are more likely to also cause injuries 64Tenforde, A. S., & Fredericson, M. (2011). Influence of sports participation on bone health in the young athlete: a review of the literature. PM&R, 3(9), 861-867.. So it’s a tradeoff that needs to be considered in choosing an active lifestyle.
11. It Can Reduce Pain
Exercise can help reduce and manage pain due a production of endorphins, which are thought to reduce the perception of pain and help produce positive feelings 65Anderson, E. H., & Shivakumar, G. (2013). Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Frontiers in psychiatry, 4, 27.. This pain reduction isn’t just effective in the short term, it also helps manage chronic pain by reducing it 66Geneen, L. J., Moore, R. A., Clarke, C., Martin, D., Colvin, L. A., & Smith, B. H. (2017). Physical activity and exercise for chronic pain in adults: an overview of Cochrane Reviews. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (4).. It also helps raise pain tolerance 67Jones, M. D., Booth, J., Taylor, J. L., & Barry, B. K. (2014). Aerobic training increases pain tolerance in healthy individuals. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 46(8), 1640-7. 68Ellingson, L. D., Colbert, L. H., & Cook, D. B. (2012). Physical activity is related to pain sensitivity in healthy women. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 44(7), 1401-1406..
12. Help You Quit Smoking
Exercise may help reduce the negative side-effects of smoking such as cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and it may also limit the weight gain you might experience should you try to stop smoking. A meta-analysis consisting of 20 studies investigating how exercise helps to quit smoking found a low to moderate effect for the combination of aerobic and resistance training. Which means exercise might help, but it’s best to do a combination of aerobic exercise and a resistance training to reap any benefits against smoking69Klinsophon, T., Thaveeratitham, P., Sitthipornvorakul, E., & Janwantanakul, P. (2017). Effect of exercise type on smoking cessation: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC research notes, 10(1), 1-21..
13. Improve Focus, Memory, Attention
Last, but not least, and personally the most important. A large body of research has shown that aerobic exercise (e.g., 30 minutes per day) causes persistent improvements in brain functioning. It does this by improving blood flow and altering the structure of your brain, but also increasing the concentration of beneficial molecules (new brain chells) in your brain. These factors enhance brain functioning 70Kirk-Sanchez, N. J., & McGough, E. L. (2014). Physical exercise and cognitive performance in the elderly: current perspectives. Clinical interventions in aging, 9, 51. 71Bherer, L. (2015). Cognitive plasticity in older adults: effects of cognitive training and physical exercise. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1337(1), 1-6. such as decision-making, learning, memory, and help stay focused. Which improve the quality of your life by helping you achieve your goals. It also helps prevent chronic disease associated with aging, which also affect your brain 72Cotman, C. W., Berchtold, N. C., & Christie, L. A. (2007). Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation. Trends in neurosciences, 30(9), 464-472.. 73Kirk-Sanchez, N. J., & McGough, E. L. (2014). Physical exercise and cognitive performance in the elderly: current perspectives. Clinical interventions in aging, 9, 51. 74Jackson, P. A., Pialoux, V., Corbett, D., Drogos, L., Erickson, K. I., Eskes, G. A., & Poulin, M. J. (2016). Promoting brain health through exercise and diet in older adults: a physiological perspective. The Journal of physiology, 594(16), 4485-4498. 75Pedrinolla, A., Schena, F., & Venturelli, M. (2017). Resilience to Alzheimer’s disease: the role of physical activity. Current Alzheimer Research, 14(5), 546-553..
The bottom line on exercise
Out of all the possible ways you could do something nice for yourself, exercise and physical activity are among the absolute best. For healthy adults, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Health Association recommends:
- All healthy adults aged 18-65, need at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity 5 times per week (e.g. brisk walking). Or 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity 3 per week (e.g. jogging)76Haskell, W. L., Lee, I. M., Pate, R. R., Powell, K. E., Blair, S. N., Franklin, B. A., … & Bauman, A. (2007). Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation, 116(9), 1081..
- Strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Examples include lifting free weights, using weight machines or doing body-weight training.
- For further fitness and reduction of disease more exercise is recommended, and no upper limit is known.
Spread your activities throughout the week. If you want to lose weight, meet specific fitness goals or get even more benefits, you may need to ramp up your moderate aerobic activity to 300 minutes or more a week.
Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
The most important fact you need to remember is to choose something fun, because a fun activity is something that is easier to keep doing. This is important, because regular physical activity is important, because a significant part of the benefits of exercise come from doing it frequently throughout your life!