Committing to exercise is going to go hand in hand with nutrition for all around wellness. You might be focused on an exercise program but sometimes forget why you are even doing it. Let me show you 12 key benefits of exercise.
What Makes Up Your Exercise Routine?
Exercise possibilities are limitless, just getting out there and getting your body moving is extremely important. Here are some of the most common forms of exercise:
- weight lifting
- tai chi
- stair running
- recreational team sports
- boot camps
- cardio classes
- cross country skiing
This list can go on and on, even this will get you sweating..
I’m sorry but it’s important to remember this was a real point in history.
And hey kids reading this, a CASSETTE TAPE is something we had to listen to music on. Embrace the modern technology but you’ll never know the satisfaction of winding back in the pulled out tape with a pencil..
And if you’re not sure what a walkman is just ask look in your parents attic. It will be in a box next to a Cabbage Patch Kid..
Ok let’s check out these benefits of exercise before a Charles In Charge commercial comes on…
1. Exercise Promotes Weight Loss
Probably the #1 reason why people exercise so lets look at this first. Exercise Increases the capacity of muscle to burn fat and along with that the formation of lean muscle again enhances metabolism. Muscle is metabolically active even at rest so the leaner you are the more efficient your body is at burning calories.
There’s a growing interest now in activities that are called high intensity interval training or H.I.I.T as they promote a style of workout that allows the body to continue to burn calories after the exercise is completed.
H.I.I.T involves an intense burst of exercise for roughly 30-45 seconds followed by a lower intensity period of around 90 seconds or so. This encourages the body to use sugar as the primary fuel source during the higher intensity and fat during the lower intensity and leads to greater fat loss despite its shorter time than those engaging in less vigorous exercise of low or moderate intensity
This type of training puts you into a different type of recovery type of recovery mode called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). What this means is there is a larger oxygen uptake by the body to replenish the oxygen deficiency you experienced during the high intensity training. Essentially you enter into an afterburn effect as your body continues to burn calories long after this high intensity training.
A basic H.I.I.T workout would be sprints on a stationary bike where you perform an all out sprint at a higher resistance for 30 seconds and then a 90 second recovery time at a much lighter resistance and repeat that anywhere from 3-8 times.
2. Helps Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
This was always called Adult Onset Diabetes, however it is showing up in kids and teens. Type 2 diabetes is non insulin dependent diabetes. Long term intervention of exercise along with a clean diet can lead to great improvement to prevent or postpone manifest diabetes.
3. Helps Build Strong Bones & Prevent Osteoporosis
High impact-weight bearing exercise helps to build bone and also keep them strong. Examples of high impact are running, hiking, stair climbing, sports etc.High impact exercise might not always be possible but low impact exercise still has benefits for strengthening and building bone.
That would include things like using elliptical machines, biking, low impact cardio classes. Exercise helps to increase the mineral content of bone. It also helps prevent the age-related decline in axial skeletal mass.
4. Helps Protect You From Getting Heart Disease
Exercise makes the heart stronger so that it pumps more blood with fewer beats. It also helps in lowering blood pressure by increasing the diameter of the arteries that wrap the heart (aka the coronary arteries) and makes them more elastic.
Exercise will decrease the platelets in the blood which are like tiny discs and this will reduce the risk of clot formation. There have been four decades worth of studies that have made it clear there is a link between physical activity and cardiovascular health.
5. Improves Cognitive Function
Research from the University Of Minnesota found that young adults who run or or participate in aerobic activities preserved their thinking and memory skills for middle age.
While other studies from Finland showed that middle aged people who are physically active protect themselves from dementia in older age.
This information published in Psychology Today clearly shows how there are cognitive and mental health benefits by undertaking exercise at these various life stages. Ideally people will continue a life of physical activity to help the transition become smoother into each stage of life.
You can follow and try out the tests they used to measure cognitive function called the Stroop Test which makes you identify the color a word is written in without saying the actual word. Harder than it sounds!
6. Exercise Helps Improve Mood
These endorphins have a similar affect on the body as morphine and the endoprhins act as analgesics which help in diminishing the perception of pain and can lead to euphoric feelings. Many call this a ‘runners high’. The problem with pain medicines is they can lead to addiction and dependency while physical activity activates the receptors by the bodies own natural pain killer and mood enhancer.
7. Improves Sleep
That looks like me after a long night of playing cribbage…
Exercise does a few things when it comes to sleep. First off it helps strengthen you circadian rhythms which helps us roughly follow a 24 hour cycle based on light and darkness in our environment.
A strong circadian rhythm helps promote daytime alertness and helps bring on sleepiness at night. A poll done by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who exercise regularly were reported sleeping well on most nights compared to those who were not active.
Quality of sleep is also improved by exercise, not just the quantity. Studies are showing that daytime physical activity may stimulate longer periods of slow-wave sleep, which is the deepest and most restorative portion of our sleep.
8. Reduces LDL Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a massive topic and most people are aware there is ‘good’ cholesterol in the form of high density lipoprotein (HDL) and ‘bad’ cholesterol known as low density lipoprotein (LDL).
It is not as simple as all that as there are a few forms of LDL. There are actually some good LDL that come in the form of large fluffy type molecules and then small dense LDL particles. Those small dense particles are the ones that cause the damage and exercise.
Chris Kresser does an amazing job of breaking down this whole topic here
In regards to exercise it helps reduce those small, dense LDL by up to 17% observed over a 12 week endurance exercise program. Studies also suggest that exercise can increase the transport of cholesterol from the rest of the body to the liver, where it will eventually be expelled by the body.
9. Exercise Lowers Blood Pressure
Those with extremely high blood pressure obviously have to be cautious regarding strenuous exercise and definitely should consult with a physician first.
For the majority of people exercise is a a drug-free approach to lowering blood pressure. This is related to the heart disease issue in that exercise makes the heart stronger and able to pump more blood with less effort. Becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by an average of 4-9 mm of mercury.
The Mayo Clinic points out how that’s as good as some blood pressure medications. And exercise doesn’t cost you a thing, if you don’t include my massive headband collection..
10. Can Help Prevent Colds
This is not always associated with exercise but exercise is seen to boost the immune system and researchers from the University Of Carolina found that people who exercise regularly are 23% less likely to get colds than those who didn’t.
Along with that the exercisers that got colds had symptoms that were less severe and disappeared more quickly than those who did not exercise.
The potential of reduced sick days and lost labor is enough for many business to now encourage exercise and provide employees with either fitness facilities or gym memberships.
11. Reduces The Severity Of Asthma
Exercise-induced asthma is a real inconvenience and enough to put a lot of people off of exercise. Those of us who don’t experience asthma don’t understand the effect it can have. Picture having to breath through a straw and you get a bit of the idea of how tough it can really be.
Exercise will help with fewer and milder attacks and need for less medication. Besides helping control weight and boost your immune system exercise helps to strengthen your breathing muscles.
Experts suggest that exercise can be done only when asthma is under control and if it’s not exercise can be dangerous. Proper warm up and cool down is important while also being mindful of things that can trigger an asthma attack like cold air, smog, pollen etc.
Swimming has been observed as one of the top activities for those who suffer from asthma along with yoga, biking and walking.
12. Exercise Has Anti Aging Effects
The fittest guy in my gym by far is a 65 year old man who puts 20 year olds to shame. He honestly looks half his age and I’m sure everyone has encountered one of these ageless wonders at some point.
Besides enhancing blood flow to the brain to reducing the risk of stroke and improving reasoning and memory exercise arouses the brain and slows down degeneration of the central nervous system.
Exercise also reduces the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases in the elderly and it is thought that the greatest threat to health is not the aging process itself but inactivity.
How To Get Started
For anyone who has had a long lay off from exercise or is just physically inactive you always want to double check with your doctor to make sure you ready. It is always key to know where you are at.
Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. For those of you who are well underway in programs, sports or activities you are definitely on the right path and the next step is to always keep your body guessing by changing up the routine, exercises, frequency and intensity. You want to keep providing your body with a new stimulus so that it can adapt and not get complacent.
Starting Slow But Steady
For those who might be new to exercise is to start slow but know even those gradual changes are going to have tremendous benefits. Aiming for 30 minutes a day, each day is going to get you on the path to experiencing all these benefits listed above.
It might be a brisk 30 minute walk, a bike ride, a hike or even just playing tennis. You just want to engage in something that gets your heart rate up and can even make you break a sweat. If you’re starting out listen to your body. Don’t over do it and a key tip is to leave your body wanting more, not beaten down and exhausted.
The sooner you get underway in pursuit of an active lifestyle the sooner you can start to reap all the benefits of exercise and the rewards that come with it.
I think I might actually bust out my old walkman because I forgot about its original connection to fitness..
I don’t care what anyone says, I miss these..
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photo cred: Amy Selleck, Ewen Roberts, JD Hancock, Jennie Faber, Elliot Stokes, Tammikibler