Warning Signs You Aren't Getting Enough Exercise

Achieving your body or fitness goals might be your motivation to hit the gym every week or sweat it out at home. Or your drive could be the full benefits of exercising — weight control, strength, better sleep, lowered risk of heart diseases and some cancers, improved mood and cognitive abilities, better sex life, and living longer (via MedlinePlus). But how much exercise is actually enough to enjoy these benefits?


The recommended dose for adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise spread over the week (per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Two days of muscle strengthening activity is also recommended. Actually, all physical activity counts toward improving and maintaining good health. While exercising is more structured, physical activity includes exercise and every other activity that burns energy — gardening, pushing a cart, doing laundry (via the Cardiovascular Institute of the South). Your body and mind enjoys the benefits of exercising and physical activity. And when you're not getting enough activity, your body can show you signs. 


You've added weight

There are two sides of the equation that determines whether you gain or lose weight: energy or calorie intake (eating and drinking) on one side and energy expenditure (exercise and physical activity) on the other. Exercise and physical activity helps you lose or maintain weight because it helps you spend energy you get from food. So, individuals who are less physically active tend to put on weight over time, according to a review published in Diabetes Spectrum.


Physically active people tend to have more control over their appetite and energy intake (via Nutrients). Evidence shows that this effect is irrespective of sex or amount of body fat. In the long run, this helps with weight loss and weight maintenance. On the other hand, physically inactive individuals tend to have impaired control of their appetite. This may lead to more food intake and weight gain.

Your body is stiff and achy

Your body is designed to move, notes the Spine and Pain Clinics of North America. When your body doesn't move enough, it leads to what is known as disuse syndrome which comes with different symptoms in your joints, bones and muscles


Joint stiffness is one of the results of inactivity. Disuse weakens the joint and surrounding muscles, ligament, and tendons that enable movement. But when you exercise, blood supply to the joint increases. And this blood brings nutrients and oxygen which nourish the joint. Exercise also causes the synovial fluid within the joint to flow freely which lessen friction during movement. Exercise maintains bone strength and density. Regular exercise (especially routines that make you move against gravity) stimulates the delivery of nutrients to the bones. 

Your muscles weaken, stiffen, lose their mass, and wither away when you don't use them (via Livingstone Health). This could make your body ache. For instance, when the muscles propping up the spine weaken, you could experience lower back pain. You might also experience early muscle fatigue when you try to do something physically demanding. This is because your heart pumps with less strength when you don't exercise. So, your muscles won't receive enough blood, nutrients and oxygen making them tire out quickly with physical demand. Fatigued muscles are also prone to microtraumas and strains — and their tendons and ligaments can easily get injured.


You're tired all the time

Not getting enough exercise can lead to fatigue or low energy, making you feel tired all the time. Healthline notes that fatigue is not the same as feeling sleepy, although feeling sleepy may be a symptom. Fatigue involves feeling tired and having no energy or motivation. This feeling may not be solved with food or rest. Fatigue can be caused by many physical or mental health conditions. It could also be due to lifestyle factors, one of which is lack of exercise.


Physical activity decreases feelings of fatigue, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. While this is already known, the study sought to find the effect of both physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle on fatigue in women. Results showed that women who exercised up to the recommended amount were less fatigued than those who didn't. Also, women who fell short but spent less time being sedentary were less fatigued than those who were inactive and sedentary. Therefore, it appears that not only does exercise reduce fatigue in women, even spending less time sitting around helps if the recommended exercise levels aren't met.

You experience negative moods

Exercising has positive effects on mental health and mood (per the Better Health Channel). People who are physically active have a lower risk of developing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Also, people with poor mental health benefit from exercise as part of the treatment for their condition.


Exercise acts through many ways to improve mental health. It influences stress hormones, serotonin, and endorphins which play roles in regulating your mood (making you feel less stressed and more happy). Exercise can improve your mood through indirect means. It makes you feel more energized and improves sleep. Exercising can make you feel relaxed by releasing pent up muscle tension and frustration. The opportunity to exercise also serves as a distraction from negative thoughts and can help you socialize. As additional psychological benefits of exercising, you can improve your sense of control, self-esteem, and coping abilities. 

You're not getting good sleep

Exercise and sleep have a two way relationship, notes the Sleep Foundation. Exercise makes you sleep better and good sleep improves your ability to exercise. Exercise reduces the time it takes for you to fall asleep and the overall time spent awake lying in bed. So, if you often find yourself counting sheep, a good workout might be the remedy. Exercising also reduces daytime sleepiness, saving sleepiness for the right time. Since exercising is physically demanding, it's a healthy way to build up your sleep drive or the pressure to sleep (via The Sleep Doctor). This pressure builds up throughout the time you spend awake and drives you to sleep at the right time. Exercising also reduces pre-sleep anxiety in insomnia sufferers.


Aerobic exercises, resistance training, and mind body exercises like yoga are good for sleep. And light exposure during outdoor morning exercises help regulate your body clock (circadian rhythm) and thus improving sleep. As for nighttime exercise, the sleep foundation acknowledges that there's debate on whether it's beneficial or harmful. It helps some people sleep deeper but can worsen certain aspects of sleep — exercise an hour before sleep is not recommended. You can opt for yoga, light stretching and breathing exercises as these are beneficial to sleep.

Your cognitive abilities are diminished

Exercising improves your strength and physical fitness. It bulks up your brain too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that any form of regular physical activity can improve cognitive abilities like thinking, learning, and problem solving. Physical activity is also protective against cognitive decline.


According to Scientific American, exercising improves cognitive abilities by boosting blood circulation and nutrient supply to the brain. It also helps maintain the brain's blood vessels and helps create new brain cells. The muscles aren't the only ones to get energized with exercise. The brain, too, gets an energy supply boost through the creation of more mitochondria. Research also shows that the impact of exercise on the brain and brain health is not short lived and can persist for a lifetime. 

The Cleveland Clinic adds that exercise improves cognition by reducing inflammation and lowering stress hormones. Structurally, exercise increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex and integrity of white matter. It also affects areas of your brain responsible for learning and memory, boosting these functions.


Your self control is weak

We all face tests to our self control — a sinfully sweet piece of cake, or TV watching when it's time for a workout. There seems to be a mutual relationship between exercising and self control, according to this review, published in Brain Plasticity.


You need some level of self control to stick to exercising and achieve your long term goals. People with high traits of self control tend to adhere to exercising. And when self control is depleted experimentally, people tend to perform poorly in exercises, notes the review.

Exercising can sharpen self control. On assessment, physically fit individuals tend to exhibit better self control than others. Also, studies show an improvement in self control from participating in long term exercise programs and short exercise sessions. However, more studies are still needed to find out the exact means by which exercising influences parts of the brain responsible for self control.

You get sick easily

Exercise stimulates your immune system which helps you fight off illnesses. But not at all intensities, though. Performing strenuous exercise repeatedly suppresses the immune system and performing little activity has no effect. Regular moderate exercise is most beneficial to your immune system, according to a review published in Physiological Reviews. As a guide, if you exercise following the recommendations, you should be fine (via Healthline). However, athletes and individuals who participate in more vigorous workouts should make sure to rest adequately in between.


The immune system helps ward off bacteria, viruses, and harmful microbes in our environment, explains the website — and exercise helps boost these functions. Exercising can increase the circulation of immune cells which help fight off invaders and protect you against future threats. It also reduces inflammation and regulates the immune system's activities. Exercising increases your body temperature temporarily which may have some benefits in preventing bacterial growth. Exercise also improves sleep and combats stress and depression. These effects, in turn, strengthen the immune system. In the long term, exercising has also been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

You have digestion problems

You might need to exercise more if you often experience digestive discomfort. Sitting too much reduces the blood flow to your gut, slows down digestion, and can mess with your gut bacteria. Reduced blood flow and slowed digestion can lead to constipation, bloating, gas, cramps, heartburn, or other forms of discomfort after eating. And changes to your gut bacteria can cause irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or celiac disease (via DiaResQ).


Exercises, especially moderate intensity forms like walking, can improve blood flow to your gut muscles (per Axa Health). This aids the digestive functions, thus preventing constipation, bloating, or gas. Also, when your digestive system is not in top shape, the immune system and mind can be affected. About 70% of components of the immune system are found in the gut. So taking care of gut health can help prevent conditions like colds, eczema, obesity, chronic fatigue, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and some cancers.

Your sex life needs a jolt

Your sex life is not left out when exercising dishes its rewards. For example, exercising can strengthen your core, pelvic floor and leg muscles which can make your orgasms happen more often and more intensely. Also, with better blood flow comes better sensation which is important for sexual stimulation. Improved blood flow helps men with erectile dysfunction get an erection (via Healthline). Not to forget, exercising boosts your overall energy levels which is good for your stamina during sex. Apart from the physical side of things, your emotional state can affect your arousal and sex appetite. Exercising helps by warding off libido killers like depression, stress, anxiety, bad mood, and low self-confidence (via Blue Heart).


As for what exercises to try out to improve your sexual health, the site suggests strength training, high intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga, swimming, and Kegel exercises. It's easy to think of sex as a good workout (especially if you have sex a lot). And based on this logic, any extra workout is not needed. Well, think again. Having sex frequently boosts your sex drive, according to Blue Heart. But you don't burn that much calories from sex (per Healthline). So, having sex can't replace exercise. You burn approximately 3.6 calories per minute of sexual activity. However, more intense positions can ramp up the burn during sex.

You're dealing with skin problems

Being inactive increases fat which hides under the skin, but excess fat can cause problems which show up on your skin too. Excess fat can lead to a hormonal imbalance, explains Cutis Medical Laser Clinics. And this can lead to hormonal acne blackheads, or worsen existing skin problems. Also fat buildup under the skin may contribute to the formation of cellulite. How firm your skin is and how pronounced any skin dimples are can be affected by inactivity. Exercise tightens your muscles and prevents weight gain and these avert skin laxity. Increased stress and anxiety from a sedentary lifestyle only worsen skin problems.


So maintaining a healthy skin or preventing the worsening of skin conditions might be the push you need to work out. What's more, there's a post-workout glow that even cosmetic giants can't replicate. Speaking to the American Academy of Dermatology, board-certified dermatologist, Edidiong Kaminska explains that the skin, the largest organ, is not left out of the blood flow boost the whole body gets after you exercise. "This provides oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells and clears impurities from the skin, creating a post-workout glow," Kaminksa says.

But exercising could cause troubles to your skin if you don't take countermeasures. Sweating flushes out impurities from the skin but it could clog up your pores. Chafing and sun damage are also threats to the skin. To avoid these, the site advises that you clean up after a workout, avoid makeup, always wear sun protection, and wear fitting shoes and loose moisture wicking clothes.


You've put on water weight

You can put on water weight from the body being stagnant for a period. This could be from a 10 hour flight, time spent on bed rest or in a wheelchair, or spending most of your day at your desk (via Everyday Health). Water weight, known medically as edema, develops when excess water is retained in the body. While 60% of your body is normally occupied by water, you can retain an extra five pounds of water. Water retention can manifest as an unexplained weight gain over a short period, swollen body parts (ankles, face, fingers, stomach), and discomfort around the swelling. Swelling might also be generalized all over the body. You will notice an indentation if you apply gentle pressure with your thumb on the affected area.


Water retention can be caused by a number of factors and not just the body being stagnant. Everyday Health advises you to seek medical help if edema doesn't resolve after a week as water retention is often temporary. There are some things you can do to get rid of water weight — regular movement (walking, cycling) can help drain the excess water. You should decrease salt intake, avoid processed food, and red meat. It also helps if you consume lots of fluid (8 to 12 glasses), citrus fruits, whole grains, and green, leafy vegetables. Your doctor might prescribe water pills also known as diuretics to get rid of excess water. Lemon or cranberry juice, and caffeinated drinks have strong diuretic effects as well.


An existing chronic condition is worsening

If you are one of the six in 10 American adults battling with a chronic condition, you can benefit from exercising regularly. Exercising is known to reduce the risk of developing many chronic conditions. It also helps manage complications and symptoms a person with a chronic condition might be facing, explains Bradley Prigge, wellness exercise specialist (via Everyday Health). Physical activity can help obese people achieve a healthier weight. It reduces the pain from fibromyalgia and helps patients function better. It helps individuals with conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, persisting pain, and inflammation, reduce their risk of severe conditions.


Exercise is kind of an all purpose pill because it has many effects on the brain and body. This is why it's considered pleiotropic, notes Shawn Flanagan, assistant professor in the department of sports medicine and nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh (per Everyday Health). However, if you have a chronic condition, you should check with your doctor before you exercise. This is to be sure you are not over-exerting yourself and potentially worsening your condition by exercising.

Tips for getting enough exercise

It is recommended that you incorporate aerobic exercises for at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes and two days of strength training exercises as part of your weekly routine. However, a little exercise is better than none. It also helps if you avoid being inactive all the time. You can be active by performing chores like cleaning or gardening (per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases).


Embarking on an exercise journey and following through with it can be a challenging task, notes Help Guide. It can be tough to start exercising despite the knowledge of the dangers of not getting enough exercise, along with the variety of workout programs that can be overwhelming. Your barrier could be a limiting health condition or a busy life. It could also be that you don't have the right mindset. Help Guide advises that you exercise within your physical limits, be patient with your journey, and don't be discouraged by your current fitness level or past unhealthy choices.