Here are some of the many benefits of exercise, some are lifesaving!
There are many benefits of exercise ranging from feeling better to being able to do more, sleep well and look better. You might want to know what exactly the benefits are? You might not care about sleeping better, or looking better and you might not feel bad or unwell so why try fix what is not broken?
You don’t like exercise, you don’t like sweat, you don’t have time and you don’t like crowded gyms! Maybe you will care about serious health risks?
It has been shown that prolonged physical inactivity increases the risk of Coronary Artery Disease by 45%, Stroke by 60%, Hypertension by 30% and Osteoporosis by 59%.
Here are some of the many benefits of exercise, some are lifesaving!
The physical and physiological benefits:
Exercise helps control body weight
By exercising we are expending energy, that if left unused would need to be stored, most often it would be stored as fat.
Exercise not only uses energy, our body gains muscle from exercise. Muscle uses energy and we begin to burn more energy each day because of our muscle. This use of energy by metabolically active muscle has been found to be as much as 30 calories per day for 450 grams of muscle. Fat is not metabolically active.
Exercise also raises our body’s Resting Energy Expenditure, meaning that even during rest after exercise we burn calories.
Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease (September is Heart Health Awareness Month)
Exercise reduces the Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol (the cholesterol that clogs arteries) and it increases High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol (the good cholesterol). High levels of HDL protects against heart attack. It carries LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver where it is passed from the body.
Exercise also reduces the risk of heart disease by effectively exercising the heart which is a muscle. The heart passes more blood during exercise making the cardiac muscle fibres more adept at working and therefore increasing heart health.
Exercise stimulates the growth of new blood vessels causing blood pressure to decrease.
Exercise decreases the risk of Diabetes and reduces Diabetes complications
People who are Diabetic are encouraged to exercise because muscles working use more glucose than muscles resting. Muscle movement leads to greater sugar uptake and lower blood sugar levels.
Pre-diabetic individuals are also encouraged to exercise for the same benefits as those who already have diabetes. Exercise reduces insulin requirements, which also promotes weight loss. Exercise improves circulation, reduces stress levels which raise glucose levels.
Exercise can prevent different forms of cancers
At least 35% of cancer deaths are related to being overweight or lack of activity or both. Exercise helps prevent being overweight and increases levels of activity. Exercise also speeds up the passage of food through the colon, reducing the time that harmful toxins are in contact with the v colon. High activity levels have also been found to reduce the levels of oestrogen in the body which has been linked to breast cancer. Individuals who are more active produce less amounts of insulin and insulin like growth factors (IGF) which have been linked to tumour growth.
Exercise prevents colds/flu
When compared to individuals who do not exercise it was found that people who exercise are 23% less likely to get colds and that their symptoms disappear quicker than their non-exercising counterparts. Exercise spikes the immune system for a few hours per day, even 30min of brisk walking is enough to elicit this benefit.
Exercise reduces the severity of asthma
It is possible for people with asthma to exercise or continue exercising if they are using preventative medication. Exercising for an extended period with asthma leads to less asthma attacks and less severe asthma attacks, and the need for medication will decrease. An excellent form of exercise for asthmatics is swimming, where the individual is required to control their breathing, with practice this leads to better control of breathing and reduction of asthma attacks.
Exercise reduces the risk of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
Exercise reduces the risk of osteoporosis by loading the bones. This constant loading of the bones whether it be in the form of walking, running or weights or even a combination leads to calcium formation around the bones that are constantly loaded leading to stronger bones and decreased loss of density in the bones, this is especially important for women.
Prolonged regular exercise leads to increased joint mobility and flexibility which will ease symptoms of arthritis. Exercise has been shown to prevent onset of arthritis, compared to individuals of the same age who do not exercise regularly. Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis have decreased symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and increased muscular strength, which leads to improved functionality and ability to perform daily tasks.
Exercise increases energy levels
Exercise makes our body circulate blood better and this increases oxygen and nutrient supply to the cells in the body. What this will mean for you is that you will experience increased energy levels throughout the day and during normal everyday activities like grocery shopping. Also when your heart and lungs work better you feel better and will have a lot more energy available.
Improves body composition
Regular exercise not only builds muscle and loses fat but it improves our general appearance. Muscle is much more dense compared to fat, so the same weight in muscle takes up much less space compared to that of fat, so when losing a kilogram of fat and gaining a kilogram of fat, we lose centimeters, the extra muscle then also helps burn more calories. By increasing the amount of muscle we have we decrease centimetres, fitting into smaller clothes, and looking and feeling better. We are able to do more each day.
The psychological benefits
Exercise is an excellent destressor; it counters depression and improves self-esteem.
Exercise is good for the mood and combats depression
Exercise leads to reduced muscle tension and favourable alterations in brain neurotransmitters. Increased secretion of endorphins (the feel good hormone) is caused by exercise which leads to mood improvements. Exercise also leads to changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin levels which reduce levels of anxiety and increase mood.
Exercise appears to stimulate the growth of neurons in certain brain regions that have been damaged by depression.
Exercise fights memory loss and Alzheimer’s
A study at the University of Illinois found that brain responses in active seniors were comparable to those of young adults. Exercise also increases flow of blood to the brain and stimulates growth of nerve cells in parts of the brain involved in memory. Exercise has been shown to protect the hippocampus region of the brain which governs memory and spatial navigation. The hippocampus is also one of the first brain regions to succumb to Alzheimer’s damage; therefore exercise can help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s.
Exercise helps you academically
Exercise increases the level of brain chemicals called growth factors which help make new brain cells and establish new connections between brain cells to help us learn and this is why exercise is so good for academic achievements.
Exercise improves sleeping patterns
Exercise releases endorphins, which apart from being the feel good hormone endorphins are also the body’s own painkillers, which are released into your system, relieving headaches, back aches and insomnia.
Exercise is good for the mind, soul and your self-esteem
Exercise is a temporary diversion from the daily stressors. It gives you a sense of self-mastery when you feel that you are getting stronger and faster, and when you can get a difficult exercise right. It is extremely good for your self-esteem when your body compositions starts changing and you suddenly look better with and without clothes.
What exercise should I be doing?
*Trainer Tip*- Any exercise is good compared to nothing at all. Simply walking for 10min per day will have health benefits compared to not walking at all. The best form of exercise is a mixture of cardio exercise (walking, running, swimming, cycling, skipping, burpees) and weight lifting exercises. The mixture will build muscle, increase cardiorespiratory fitness and together almost all the benefits of exercise can be seen.
The most important determinant of exercise effectivity is intensity, the higher the intensity for as long as possible will lead to more calories being burnt, higher resting metabolic rate and faster adaptations in the body to the exercise load the body is being put under, these adaptations are advantageous to our health in various ways.
We will look at the best combination of exercises, as well as examples of exercises to do at home or in the gym during the next few weeks in the blog.
Reference: McGraw Hill Int. Ed – Nutrition for Health, Fitness, and Sport 9th Edition, by Melvin H. Williams