Many people are under the idea that exercise is only about burning calories or getting fit.

Regular exercise offers way more than weight loss, muscle building and mental clarity. In fact, scientists are only beginning to understand the dozens of subtle changes that occur within the body and mind of someone who makes challenging exercise a priority.

Although exercise offers obvious visible changes that are easily recognisable such as weight loss, there are many less obvious benefits that proper exercise offers to other systems and organs in your body such as your skin that add years to your life and youth to your appearance.

Truth is, exercise is a powerful antidote to ageing… both in the way you look and feel.

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Exercise also boosts the body's natural production of HGH - human growth hormone. Getty Images
Exercise also boosts the body's natural production of HGH - human growth hormone. Getty Images

Let's examine some of these less obvious benefits that challenging exercise provides starting with your skin.

Mini-Facial: If you don't sweat when you work out, you're not working hard enough. Any workout worth doing will leave you breaking a sweat.

And, just like a mini-facial, sweating expels the dirt and oil that is trapped in your pores (be sure to wash your face well after you are finished to remove the grime). Not only will you get a mini-facial but with each muscle contraction, you also exercise and tone the muscles in your face.

Added Nutrients: Sweating when exercising allows the tiny arteries in your skin (used to deliver nutrients to your cells) to open more. This provides greater blood flow to the skin's surface (delivering all those nutrients) where it works its magic repairing any skin damage from environmental hazards or too much exposure to the sun.

Boosted Collagen: Unfortunately, as we age, the skin's collagen, the key to keeping wrinkles at bay, is reduced. Fibroblasts, our collagen-producing cells, are less effective and fewer in number. However, the extra nutrients provided to the skin when we exercise help fibroblasts work more effectively, increasing the production of collagen, chasing wrinkles away and giving skin a more youthful glow.

Skin isn't the only thing that benefits from challenging, consistent exercise.

Better Immunity: Exercise means breathing hard and increased circulation as well as sweating. Increased circulation is key to better lymph drainage and white blood cell production. This increased blood flow revs up the immune system and helps reduce body-wide inflammation.

With a healthy army of white blood cells coursing through you, fewer viruses and bacteria find their way in and any wounds you incur heal quicker. You'll get the gift of better immunity and powerful detoxing all in one package.

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Healthy sex life: Seems what's good for your heart is also good for your sex life. Male or female, testosterone is the hormone that fuels your sex drive and you can tailor your workout to produce more testosterone! Concentrate on squats, lunges, dead-lifts, rows and bench presses.

These types of compound exercises all boost testosterone levels quicker than small muscle group movements like bicep curls.

When your sex hormone levels are balanced (through proper exercise), you'll not only look and feel sexier but hair, skin and muscle tone all improve.

HGH Boost: If that's not enough, exercise also boosts the body's natural production of HGH – human growth hormone. This hormone is often called "the fitness hormone" because of its age-defying effects and the role it plays in promoting health and longevity. Youth-enhancing HGH levels keep your overall physique in check and your energy levels high.

Sleep like a Baby: Let's not forget what exercise does for sleep:
Insomnia is nothing to laugh at. It is a serious condition that affects millions worldwide.

Studies prove that exercise provides deeper, longer, more restful sleep. Sleeping well is what leaves us feeling fresh, healthy and mentally ready to tackle the day. Deep, restful, sound sleep is when the body repairs tissue. Without it, ageing is rapid.

The list of health benefits that proper exercise offers are many: stronger, fitter and more flexible physically with more strength, endurance, stamina, balance and energy. Now, you can add longevity and youthful appearance to the list!

In the end, researchers and scientists alike agree that every system in our bodies benefits from improved fitness. It's the most powerful way to halt ageing, boost immunity, increase sex drive and metal clarity and manage stress.

So, what are you waiting for? Your next facial, collagen boost, sleep agent or stress management session is just a work-out away. Pair your workout routines with healthy food choices and you'll not only look and feel great, but you'll look and feel gorgeous!

■ Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness