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Five ways exercise improves your quality of life

Exercise not only helps you live longer - it helps you live better. In addition to making your heart and muscles stronger and fending off a host of diseases, it can also improve your mental and emotional functioning and even bolster your productivity and close relationships. Here's five ways exercise can improve your quality of life:

Wards off depression - There is a strong link between regular exercise and improved mood. Aerobic exercise prompts the release of mood-lifting hormones, which relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being. In addition, the rhythmic muscle contractions that take place in almost all types of exercise can increase levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which combats negative feelings.

Enhances sex life - Both libido and performance benefit from moderate to vigorous exercise. In one study, 20 minutes of cycling boosted women's sexual arousal by 169 percent.

Sharpens wits - Physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain, which many help maintain brain function. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise successfully improves cognitive function, although all types of physical activity help keep your mind sharp. Exercise also promotes good lung function, a characteristic of people whose memories and mental acuity remain strong as they age.

Improves sleep - Regular aerobic exercise helps you fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less during the night. In fact, exercise is the only known way for healthy adults to boost the amount of deep sleep they get - and deep sleep is essential for your body to renew and repair itself.

Protects mobility and vitality - Regular exercise can slow the natural decline in physical performance that occurs as you age. By staying active, older adults can actually keep their cardiovascular fitness, metabolism, and muscle function in line with those of much younger people. Many studies have shown that people who were more active at midlife were able to preserve their mobility - and therefore, their independence - as they aged.

Source: Harvard Medical School

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