Our nomadic ancestors were constantly on the move in search of food and shelter. This is why our bodies have evolved to be regularly active. However, life with no exercise can cause health problems that hamper not only our daily routine but also brain chemistry. So, let’s find out how the benefits of exercise extend to the various aspects of our lives.
Physical benefits of exercise
A disciplined fitness regime has a wide range of physical benefits for people of all ages and genders. Here are is how exercise keeps us in the pink of health:
- Exercise helps you get in shape
It’s a no-brainer that inactivity is one of the major factors of weight gain. Exercising and expending energy are closely related facets. Energy is not only spent on digesting and processing food but also in getting rid of bodily toxins and excess fats. This helps in the normal functioning of the lungs and heart. A sedentary lifestyle results in more toxin and fat deposition. Excess fats start accumulating in the tissues and organs, leading to several health conditions. Combining exercise and daily general movement keeps the body agile and maintains muscle mass. This leaves less space in the body unhealthy fats and helps keep one in good shape.
- Say goodbye to diseases
Exercise has several health benefits. For example, it reduces the bad cholesterol that clogs the arteries. Consequently, this reduces the blood pressure and lowers stress on the heart. Exercise, when combined with a healthy diet, strengthens the heart muscles, keeping coronary diseases at bay. It also improves the body’s ability to pump more oxygen, ensuring that the nutrients from the food we eat reach every end of the body. As a result, you’ll have a stronger immune system that easily fends off infections. And that’s not all! Exercising reduces the risk of suffering from various types of cancers, such as those of the colon, breast, and other endometrial forms. This is because regular exercise and a healthy diet flush out toxins and rejuvenate cells.
- Exercise makes your skin glow
The body’s cells get damaged due to the presence of free radicals. When the number of free radicals increases in the body, the internal cell structure is damaged, leading to deteriorated skin health. Such an occurrence is called oxidative damage. Antioxidants help eliminate free radicals from the body and repair cell structure. And exercise helps increase antioxidant levels. Antioxidants also promote better blood circulation, which further repairs the cells and reduces their aging. However, avoid exhaustive physical activity as this can backfire and cause oxidative damage.
- Your muscles and bones get stronger
Aging leads to a loss in muscle mass, which makes the body vulnerable to injuries and disabilities. Weightlifting exercises coupled with a healthy protein intake reduce muscle loss and maintain muscle strength as we get older. This combination promotes the release of hormones that improve the muscles’ ability to absorb amino acids that ensure muscle growth. Other exercises like tai chi are also beneficial when it comes to maintaining muscle mass, improving body balance, and preventing fracture risk, thinning of bones, and other types of osteoporosis. When it comes to bone health, exercise is beneficial for all age groups: it helps in building stronger bones in children and teenagers and inhibits the loss of bone density in adults as they grow old.
- You’ll feel less pain
Earlier, doctors used to advise inactivity and complete bed rest to help relieve chronic pain. But it has been observed that exercise increases pain tolerance, which helps manage pain due to chronic ailments like sciatica and fibromyalgia. Inactivity makes the body less agile and more susceptible to pain. As mentioned above, exercising ensures ideal body weight, which puts less pressure on the knees.
Mental benefits of exercise
Just like the muscles, bones, and organs, exercise plays a vital role in maintaining brain health and emotional wellbeing. Now that we’re aware of the physical benefits of exercise, let us look at its psychological effects:
- Exercise is an effective stressbuster
Stress makes everyone reacts differently. It leads to shoulder and neck pain, and causes headache due to tensed muscles in the neck, face, and shoulders. Stress can also cause tightness in the chest, which results in pounding pulses and muscle cramps. The chain reaction continues, and the person eventually experiences problems with sleep due to heartburn and other distressing symptoms. Consequently, this turns into a vicious cycle through the mind and the body. Exercise breaks this cycle by helping the brain release endorphins to relax the muscles and relieve the tension in the body. Thereby, one can get rid of physical discomfort due to stress.
- Get relief from anxiety and depression
It is estimated that anxiety and depression affect at least 40 million people in the country. Exercise can help treat those suffering from mild cases of these disorders as effectively as medications without the side effects. It is observed that simply running or walking for at least 15 minutes every day can reduce the chances of suffering from mental illnesses by almost 25 percent. For people suffering from anxiety, incorporating physical activity in daily routine can help in being mindful and happy. Improved neural growth reduces inflammation in the brain, and feelings of well-being and calmness are promoted. Furthermore, exercise aids the brain in releasing endorphins and other powerful chemicals that uplift mood and break the cycle of negative thoughts that aggravate anxiety and depression.
- Improve cognitive functions through exercise
Those suffering from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can majorly benefit from the routine of exercises and sports. Although considerable treatment options are available to manage ADHD symptoms, exercises and physical activity can be more effective. Aerobic exercises improve the brain’s structure, and this can be extremely beneficial for children with ADHD. Exercise results in the regulation of neurotrophic factors, i.e, regulating neural development, which helps in improving concentration and focus as well as managing and reducing hyperactivity due to ADHD. It has also been observed that exercise improves behavior and cognitive functions, which have long-lasting effects when it comes to strengthening patients against the symptoms.
- Exercise can help you get heavenly sleep
Experts suggest that as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercises like walking and cycling on a daily basis can improve one’s quality of sleep and the duration. The energy depletion that occurs due to exercise stimulates the restorative process during sleep. Exercise can also reduce the risk of suffering from sleep-related disorders restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.
- Fight PTSD with exercise
It is observed that people with post-traumatic stress disorder exercise less and are, hence, more likely to suffer from health complications like obesity and heart disease, and other complications. The reason PTSD patients are hesitant of exercising is because of the racing pulse and shortness of breath associated with it. They may feel that their PTSD symptoms might be aggravated or worsened. It is extremely important to note there are a number of benefits of exercise when it comes to managing PTSD and other mental conditions. Focusing on how the body feels can mobilize the nervous system and pay close attention to the body’s responses to exercise. Following a regular fitness schedule can greatly reduce the symptoms associated with PTSD. Exercises involving full-body movements, such as swimming, mountain biking, weight training, can also be useful in managing a variety of physical mental conditions.
- Exercise to feel happier
One of the undeniable and best benefits of exercise is the joy of doing it. Exercise elevates mood by reducing the stress experienced due to life events that people deal with every day. Some of these life events can also be responsible for the development of chronic mental conditions like anxiety and depression. Exercise helps the brain increase the serotonin levels in the brain thereby elevating mood. It also increases the production of endorphins promoting positive feeling and reducing the perception of pain, thereby promoting the feeling of happiness. Exercise can elevate mood, irrespective of its intensity and duration.
How much exercise is sufficient to reap its benefits?
Fitness experts from around the globe recommend exercises of moderate intensity for at least two hours a week. Consult a doctor and a fitness expert for the exercise duration as different people can have different limitations. They usually recommend that one should start out with light exercises and progress gradually. This helps maintain the routine and avoid injury. Some prime examples of basic exercises are
Aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, and dancing speed up the heart rate and improve breathing. Various bodily functions reap the benefits of such exercises. A simple climb up a flight of stairs can help improve heart and lung health. Aerobic exercises not only help burn body fat and reduce blood sugar levels but also aerobic exercises relax the blood vessels, which helps in maintaining a stable level of pressure.
One of the majorly overlooked benefits of exercise is flexibility. Stretching improves the flexibility in the muscles, which tends to wear off as one gets older. Lack of flexibility increases the risk of muscle cramps and joint pain. This is the reason fitness trainers place a strong emphasis on doing a few stretches before and after work out. One form of exercise that relies heavily on stretching is Yoga. The various postures and exercises that one needs to do have a plethora of positive physical and psychological effects on the body.
- Strength training
This helps rebuild lost muscle mass, stimulate bone growth, burs excess fat, and improve the body’s posture and balance. Types of strength-training exercises include push-ups, squats, lunges, and resistance training.
Every little bit of exercise counts
A few minutes of activity is better than leading a sedentary lifestyle. Reaping the benefits of exercise can take some time, and you need to have patience and stick to the routine. Taking the first step is always difficult, and these tips can help you overcome inner barriers:
- Physical stress due to exercise can make one feel worse in the beginning. But this is the first step toward a healthier life. Physical activity is a powerful energizer; the stress is only temporary. Regular exercise can dramatically increase the body’s ability to fend diseases and reduce overall fatigue.
- It’s okay to feel overwhelmed with the thought of adding an activity to your daily routine. A fast-paced life makes fitting exercises into your time slot even more difficult. Remember, physical activity brings discipline to your life. Finding ways to fit exercises for a small duration every day can help maintain a routine.
- People with weight problems and mobility-limiting conditions should consult a healthcare provider about different types of exercise that can be incorporated.
In conclusion, it is important to enjoy the exercise for maximum benefits. From window shopping at a mall and cycling to buying groceries from a nearby store or simply playing with a pet, every simple form of physical activity counts. Other physical activities like gardening or a household chore can help engage your body and elevate your mood.
Exercising with some company ones can make the routine more enjoyable. This will also motivate you to stick to the routine. Rewarding after completing a physical activity can motivate you to stick to the routine further. This can be anything from relishing a favorite food to a visit to a spa. Also, be sure to consult a doctor before incorporating any form of exercise to avoid aggravating symptoms of underlying health conditions and injuries.