We all know that exercise is important in our daily lives, but we may not know why or what exercise can do for us.
It’s important to remember that we have evolved from nomadic ancestors who spent all their time moving around in search of food and shelter, travelling large distances on a daily basis. Our bodies are designed and have evolved to be regularly active.
In the same way that a sports car is designed to go fast, we are designed to move. If the sports car is taken out once a week for a 3 mile round trip through the town centre, then it would probably develop engine problems fairly quickly.
Over time people develop problems if they sit down at a desk or in front of the TV all day and minimize the amount of exercise they do.
The Benefits of Exercise
There are many benefits of regular exercise and maintaining fitness, and these include:
1. Exercise increases energy levels
Exercise improves both the strength and the efficiency of your cardiovascular system to get oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. When your cardiovascular system works better, everything seems easier, and you have more energy for the fun stuff in life.
2. Exercise improves muscle strength
Staying active keeps muscles strong and joints, tendons and ligaments flexible, allowing you to move more easily and avoid injury. Strong muscles and ligaments reduce your risk of joint and lower back pain by keeping joints in proper alignment. They also improve coordination and balance.
3. Exercise can help you to maintain healthy weight
The more you exercise, the more calories you burn. In addition, the more muscle you develop, the higher your metabolic rate becomes, so you burn more calories even when you’re not exercising. The result? You may lose weight and look better physically, which will boost your self-esteem.
4. Exercise improves brain function
Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen levels in the brain. It also encourages the release of the brain chemicals (hormones) that are responsible for the production of cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. This, in turn, boosts concentration levels and cognitive ability, and helps reduce the risk of cognitive degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
5. Exercise is good for your heart
Exercise reduces LDL cholesterol (the type that clogs your arteries), increases HDL (the good cholesterol) and reduces blood pressure, so it lowers the stress on your heart. Added to this, it also strengthens your heart muscle. Combined with a healthy diet, exercise lowers the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
6. Regular exercise lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Regular exercise helps to control blood glucose levels, which helps to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, exercise helps to prevent obesity, which is a primary factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.
7. Exercise enhances your immune system
Exercise improves your body’s ability to pump the oxygen and nutrients around your body that are required to fuel the cells that fight bacteria and viruses.
8. Staying active reduces the likelihood of developing some degenerative bone diseases
Weight bearing exercise such as running, walking or weight training lowers your risk of both osteoarthritis and osteoporosis – the adage of “use it or lose it” really does apply to bones.
9. Exercise may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers
Being fit may mean that the risks of colon cancer, breast cancer and possibly also lung and endometrial cancers are reduced. Studies by the Seattle Cancer Research Centre have suggested that 35% of all cancer deaths are linked to being overweight and sedentary.
10. Active people tend to sleep better
Physical activity makes you more tired, so you’re more ready to sleep. Good quality sleep helps improve overall wellness and can reduce stress.
11. Exercise improves your mood and gives you an improved sense of well-being
Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins which make you feel better and more relaxed. These in turn improve your mood and lower your stress levels.
12. Exercise can help prevent and treat mental illnesses like depression
Physical activity can help you meet people, reduce stress levels, cope with frustration, give you a sense of achievement, and provide some important “me time”, all of which help with depression.
13. Keeping fit can reduce some of the effects of ageing
Getting fit is not just about running on a treadmill for hours in your local gym, it can be a dance class or a new hobby like fencing or mountain biking. It could be a group or team activity like football or a karate class.
Whatever form of exercise you choose, you’ll almost certainly meet new people and may make new friends.