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by Casey McIlvaine

Although getting healthy and staying healthy is a lifelong pursuit, getting started is often the most challenging step on that road. It can be profoundly encouraging to realize that even just one workout session can make a difference in our health in many ways—both perceptible and imperceptible.


Whether it is a light aerobic session or more intensive training workout, our bodies can derive a great deal of benefit that impacts us in many ways. There is mounting study evidence of the benefits of even one workout session that show how it can improve memory as the surge of blood to the brain when you start huffing and puffing kicks brain cells into high gear, leaving you feeling more alert during your workout and more focused immediately after.

The benefits don’t end there as other studies show it can change our DNA to some extent in ways that set the stage for disease prevention. In a 2012 study, Swedish researchers found that among healthy but inactive adults, a single 20-minute workout altered genetic material in muscle cells. Although we inherit our genes, how they express themselves (turn on or off) can be altered.

The study showed how a single workout session can work like a tune-up to help affect gene expressions for strength and metabolism that allow muscles to work better and more efficiently. The science for those that want the details is a little heady, but it is available here.

A single workout can also work to protect us from diabetes by helping our bodies to increase storage of fat in muscle, which actually improves insulin sensitivity. Low insulin sensitivity, often called insulin resistance, can lead to diabetes.

Women who did at least 30 minutes daily of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, slashed their risk of diabetes by 30 percent, found the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study. Even a single 90-minute session of aerobic exercise improved blood sugar control in at-risk women, according to research at the University of Michigan.28

These are all great aspects of how a single workout session can benefit us, but whatabout in ways that we can feel immediately? Improving your mood is an immediate positive result of a single aerobic workout session. As the brain releases those feel-good transmitters like endorphins during a workout, our mood is elevated and it last beyond the workout itself.

A 2011 article from the Harvard School of Medicine’s health publications provides some additional insights on how a single workout session can reduce stress and elevate mood. Getting started is always the hardest part of most activities. Once you experience the benefits of a single aerobic workout, it hopefully will encourage you to make this part of your routine so that you can reap the long-term benefits as well.


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