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03/13/2014 07:18 am ET Updated Mar 13, 2014

7 Surprising, Immediate Benefits Of Exercise

SPECIAL FROM Grandparents.com

Experts agree: Doing a combination of cardiovascular exercises and strength training moves on an ongoing basis is pretty much a magic wand of health benefits. But you don't have to wait months to see results. Just two weeks of regular exercise can result in tangible benefits—and some health improvements happen even faster. Our bodies are designed to move, and the following amazing, immediate benefits prove it:

  • 1 Lower your blood pressure
    "There seem to be acute benefits from cardiovascular training that occur for 24-48 hours after each moderate exercise session
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    "There seem to be acute benefits from cardiovascular training that occur for 24-48 hours after each moderate exercise session," says Randi S. Lite, Associate Professor of Practice and Director of the Exercise Science Program at Simmons College. "These include a reduction in resting blood pressure, particularly for those who have high blood pressure." How does this happen? As we age, our blood vessels become stiffer, which raises blood pressure, says Rani Whitfield, M.D., a family physician and American Heart Association spokesperson. "The hormones released during exercise make blood vessels more compliant, similar to what happens with blood pressure medications," says Dr. Whitfield. "You won't feel a difference, but your doctor will—and [he'll] start to smile."
  • 2 Regulate your blood sugar
    When we exercise, our body first draws on blood sugar (a.k.a. glucose) for fuel. And insulin is the hormone we produce that r
    Shutterstock
    When we exercise, our body first draws on blood sugar (a.k.a. glucose) for fuel. And insulin is the hormone we produce that regulates the amount of glucose in our blood stream. Exercising naturally regulates blood sugar, because it "immediately improves your body's ability to use the insulin you're already making," says Dr. Whitfield. "Diabetics often have to adjust the medications they're taking when they get fit," he adds. Relying on less medication to control diabetes is a huge benefit.
  • 3 Lift more weight, more easily
    Your muscles may not look any different after a few weeks of weight training, but they've actually become smarter and more ef
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    Your muscles may not look any different after a few weeks of weight training, but they've actually become smarter and more efficient. "One of the first adaptations to occur is neuromuscular coordination," says Lite. "Even before your muscles get larger from the strength training, you will be able to lift more weight with less strain. This is due to the nervous system getting better at figuring out exactly which muscle fibers need to be working to lift a given amount of weight."
  • 4 Feel like a million bucks
    Studies have shown that almost all exercise, whether it's walking, yoga, or even gardening, decreases depression and boosts s
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    Studies have shown that almost all exercise, whether it's walking, yoga, or even gardening, decreases depression and boosts self-esteem. "Although most studies tend to look at the effects of exercise over longer periods (12 weeks or longer), patients often report feeling more energetic and having better sleep early on in an exercise program," says Janelle W. Coughlin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. "Often times, they feel a boost in confidence and motivation, as well." How does it work? Physiologically, exercise increases blood circulation to the brain and influences your body's response to stress, says Dr. Coughlin. But exercise also delivers a one-two punch of benefits from an emotional perspective. "People may feel better when they exercise, because it's distracting, because they are engaging in social interactions, because they are developing self-confidence, or because they feel like they are managing their health," she says.
  • 5 Revs up your metabolism
    In a matter of minutes, exercise boosts your metabolism. And you have hardworking neurochemicals to thank for it. "Just the f
    Shutterstock
    In a matter of minutes, exercise boosts your metabolism. And you have hardworking neurochemicals to thank for it. "Just the fact that your heart rate goes up and your circulation is forced to go faster tells the brain that something important is happening, and it starts producing neurochemicals," says Rebecca Jaffe, M.D., a family physician who's on the board of directors for the American Academy of Family Physicians. The same neurochemicals that boots your mood are also responsible for improving your metabolism, and their effects can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, she says. "You have to continue the exercise to have sustaining benefits," says Dr. Jaffe.
  • 6 Have less arthritis pain
    In as little as two weeks, exercise can relieve pain in your joints. Really! Arthritis weakens the shock-absorbing cartilage
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    In as little as two weeks, exercise can relieve pain in your joints. Really! Arthritis weakens the shock-absorbing cartilage between your joints and your bones. Strengthening the muscles around knees and shoulders eases stress on the joint itself. "Exercising in a pool for 30 minutes, three times a week can bring an improvement in arthritis pain after two weeks," says Dr. Jaffe.
  • 7 Quit smoking more easily
    Looking to quit a dirty habit like smoking, alcohol, or drug use? Multiple studies have shown that <a href="http://www.ncbi.n
    Shutterstock
    Looking to quit a dirty habit like smoking, alcohol, or drug use? Multiple studies have shown that exercise helps you kick alcohol dependency by boosting your mood, decreasing depressive feelings, and offering you an improved coping method. While other studies showed that cigarette cravings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms decreased rapidly during exercise and remained reduced for up to 50 minutes after.
After two weeks of moderate exercise, expect to have:
  • Stronger immune system
  • More energy
  • Less stiffness
  • Cholesterol levels on the downswing
  • Lower risk of falling thanks to improved balance and coordination

To see these results, you only need to do 30 minutes of exercise, three days a week, says Dr. Jaffe. "They don't even have to be 30 consecutive minutes. When time is of the essence, and only 10 minutes can be done, those other 20 minutes can be done later in the day, and you'll still see the benefits."

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