The rise of fitness tracking devices that monitor your every step, every breath and every movement has in recent years given birth to a world where calories rule.
You only need to scroll through your social media accounts for a short period before seeing a family member or friend upload a screenshot or image of their workout results alongside a caption such as “🥵 671 calories burnt! That session was 🔥 !”
And good on them, they should be proud of getting out there and crushing their exercise goals, however, is there more to exercise than simply the calories burned?
The connotation of linking the number of calories burned with the quality of a session is dangerous, and has led many individuals to believe that if they don’t burn a certain amount of calories, then the session was a waste.
I want to debunk the myth that calories are king, and discuss the five workout benefits that are far more important than any amount of calories burned.
1. Improves mental health and mood
People who exercise regularly are likely to have better mental health and emotional wellbeing. In a recent study observing the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, daily physical activity was associated with a lower risk of psychiatric distress, and an improved ability to maintain mood stability, regardless of the type or intensity of exercise.
One of the major contributors to the improvement of an individual’s mental health is the release of chemicals, such as serotonin, as a result of exercise. Interestingly the release of serotonin does not seem to be dependent on exercise intensity, suggesting that even a simple walk is enough to trigger the release of this hormone. So, even simple and easy exercise regimes such as stretching and walking provide more benefit than meets the eye.
2. Increase muscle mass and strength
Training to improve strength and muscle mass has continued to grow in popularity for all levels of health and fitness. The major consideration here is that often when we are training to specifically increase muscle strength or mass, there won’t be the same caloric response within the session as you would see with a 45 minute HIIT session.
But guess what? That’s OK! Incorporating strength training has been shown to improve joint health and bone health, reduce the risk of injury, and (in the long run) actually improve the total number of calories burned in a day. And if that’s not enough, an increase in muscle strength will also increase functionality in everyday life.
3. Guards against chronic diseases