Hi Folks, apart from our ongoing journey to success, there is also the day in, day out grind of everyday life today. The demands put on children and adults today is probably more intense than it was say 40 years ago and more. Diet,careers,finances,relationships etc play a large role in placing our bodies under great physical and mental stress. There is a way to get ahead of the pack on these issues and that is the simple act of daily exercise. In this post we will be discussing an issue close to my heart(no pun intended :)) ) and a definite part of my life. Additional resources to support you on your exercise quest can also be found here.
So, just what are the benefits of exercise?
How much do I need?
As suggested by Dr Capolingua on the Australian Medical Association website ” Exercise doesn’t need to be gruelling or time-consuming – adults only need 30 minutes of moderate activity most days to enjoy better health and fitness, and children even less”. Isn’t that a relief to know?
It doesn’t have to cost a gym membership, It can be free!!
Forget about the new year resolution and thinking you have to rush out and pay a ridiculous, locked in, not quite sure what I’m signing, expensive gym membership. Exercise can be free,if you just use your imagination. Just go online and google free exercises or incorporate what I call “functional exercises”. I call them functional because they can pretty much relate to everyday tasks you might have to do around the house, at work etc. They can be included into your day like:
- taking the stairs rather than the lift
- Walk or cycle to the store instead of driving
- Doing the maximum amount of daily housework yourself
- Get involved in your gardening
- Taking a brisk early morning walk or a late evening stroll
- You can do “weights” at home by moving/lifting heavy than usual stuff around. Anything that involves a bit of resistance on your muscles.
- getting off the bus earlier at one or two stops before your intended destination and walking the remaining distance.
Exercise sets a great example for your kids
Adults who are physically active are actually setting a great example for their kids and helping them learn to look after their health from an early age. It doesn’t have to be heavy-duty involvement with the family. It can be as simple as a casual game of cricket with the family or kicking a ball around in the back yard. This is a great way to get some exercise and have some fun at the same time.
Health Benefits of Exercise
Some of the most powerful health benefits of exercise are explained below.
Cancer – A growing number of studies suggest that regular physical activity can also help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers, such as colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and endometrial cancer. Furthermore, other studies show that engaging in physical activity after diagnosis can help in recovery and improve outcomes for patients.
Dementia – Ongoing studies and growing evidence shows that regular exercise can decrease the risk of dementia in the elderly.
In addition to these, researchers have found that regular exercise can also help reduce depression and anxiety, as well as help individuals to manage stress more effectively. Studies have also shown that regular participation in aerobic exercise decreases overall levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes mood, improves sleep and improves self-esteem.
Diabetes – With regular exercise, insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism are meaningfully increased, meaning the body’s cells are more able to transport glucose into the cells of the liver, muscle and adipose tissue.
Obesity – Physical activity, together with proper nutrition, can help control weight and prevent obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for various diseases.
Back pain – Regular physical activity increases muscle strength and endurance, as well as improves flexibility and posture which can help alleviate and prevent back pain.
Heart disease and stroke – Exercising regularly can help improve your heart’s health as it strengthens your heart muscle, lowers your blood pressure, raises your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (aka good cholesterol) and lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (aka bad cholesterol), improves your blood flow, and increases your heart’s working capacity.
Hypertension – As mentioned above, regular exercise helps reduce blood pressure in people with elevated blood pressure levels. Furthermore, hypertension can be countered by losing weight and reducing alcohol and salt intake.
Exercise and the brain
Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.
Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.
Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.
Exercise pumps blood to the brain, which should make you think more clearly.
It increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory.
It also increases the connections between the nerve cells in the brain. This improves your memory and helps protect your brain against injury and disease.
Exercise and mental health
Can exercise improve your mood?
Whether it’s heading off on a daily run,cycling,walking or gardening,those who make a habit of exercise often say one thing that helps them stick at it is that it simply makes them feel good.
Dr Nicola Burton, senior research fellow in the University of Queensland’s school of human movement studies, says when it comes to exercise “we’re not only talking about preventing poor mental health or treating it, but promoting good mental health. Even if you don’t have depression or anxiety or a serious mental illness that you want help managing, you can enhance your wellbeing and vitality.”
This is because exercise can boost mood, concentration, alertness, and even your propensity to look on the bright side, she says.
“We’ve just done a study showing people who engage in regular exercise experience higher levels of optimism.”
Indeed not only does research show regular exercisers have better mental health and emotional wellbeing and lower rates of mental illness, but studies that track people over time show taking up physical exercise seems to reduce the risk of developing mental disorders.
As we can see from the discussion above, the benefits of exercise are numerous and wide-ranging over our physical and mental health. They all kind of add up to a message that this stuff is just good for your well-being and the best part is that it can be at minimal or no cost financially to you. Please leave a comment or question below on anything exercise related and I will attempt to answer and help where I am able to. Always remember, you must fighting fit to be fit to fight. Happy training!!