10 Reasons WE must keep active!
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
“If exercise were a pill, it would be the biggest the blockbuster in the history of medicine”
Why Must I Exercise?
You must exercise! You must choose a sport! It is good for……. The list appears to be endless. These are just some of the beliefs we are taught from a very young age. As we grow old the Public Health England encourages us to complete 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly (which is not a great deal but a good starting level).
Then Sarah Boseley of the Guardian said “If exercise were a pill, it would be the biggest blockbuster in the history of medicine”
So, I guess there must be some benefit of exercise … In this blog we will be discussing why we should exercise and ultimately the benefits of regular exercise/physical activity.
10 Health Benefits of Regular Exercise
· Helps with weight loss and weight management
· Reduces your risk of heart disease
· Helps manage blood sugar levels
· Improves your mental health and mood
· Helps you to relax and improves sleep
· Reduces your risk of cancer
· Strengthens bones and muscles
· Improves your brain health and memory
· Reduces pain
· Improves sex life
Helps with weight loss and weight management
Alongside maintaining a balanced diet, exercise is a key aspect to maintaining a healthy and controlled weight. Exercise helps to increase your metabolism and burn calories, allowing you to maintain a healthy balance between the calories you consumes and the calories you use (Church, 2011).
Multiple studies have shown that inactivity highly correlates with increased weight gain and obesity. This will in turn increase your risk of developing a range of secondary health problems and co-morbidities.
Additionally studies have demonstrated that by combining both resistance and aerobic exercise, we can optimise our fat loss whilst maintaining good levels of muscle mass (Church, 2011).
Reduces your risk of heart disease
The prevalence of high blood pressure in the UK is 3 in 10 adults. High blood pressure makes you more susceptible to heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.
Regular exercise can reduce your likelihood of developing high blood pressure by 30% hence reducing your risk of any of the diseases associated with high blood pressure. Regular exercise will also help to reduce your levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and promote HDL (good cholesterol) further reducing the risk of stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure.
As well as working the more superficial muscles, exercise also gets the heart working out which strengthens the heart and makes each heart beat more efficient. This will help oxygen get to necessary parts of the body easier
Helps to maintain blood sugars
Approximately 3.5 million people in the UK suffer with diabetes, with 90% of those individuals having type 2 diabetes. A major risk factor for type 2 diabetes is obesity. Increases in belly fat have been directly linked to increased incidence of diabetes. Exercise as demonstrated above can help to control your weight.
Additionally exercise can help to lower your blood sugar level and increase insulin sensitivity enabling better control of blood sugars.
Regular exercise increases insulin sensitivity and reduces body compensation.
Improves your mental health
In these unprecedented times, increased anxiety levels and mental health flare ups is not uncommon. However regular exercise has been demonstrated to be a great way to manage and control mental health. When you exercise, the brain releases happy hormones known as endorphins which will improve your mood and mental well-being. The brain also becomes more sensitive to hormones such as serotonin and norepinephrine which can relieve the feeling of depression.
In addition to this exercise can be a great distraction to take your mind off any worrying issues and is often viewed as a stress reliever. Research has shown that exercise can reduce the incidence of depression by up to 30%.
Interestingly, research has shown that regardless of the intensity or duration of exercise, benefits to your mental-wellbeing can be gained regardless.
Helps you to relax and improves sleep quality
Although the exact mechanism as to how exercise benefits our sleep is inconclusive; the energy depletion which occurs with exercise is thought to stimulate the brain into a rejuvenating process whilst people sleep (Driver & Taylor, 2000). Following a period of exercise you will be able to get to sleep quicker and when you do sleep you will often achieve a deeper and longer sleep.
By completing the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week it has shown to improve sleep quality by up to 65% (Loprinzi & Cardinal, 2011). Additionally you are likely to fall asleep much quicker which will stop us twisting and turning in bed. Naturally exercise also helps to make us feel calmer and happier
Reduces your risk of cancer
It is estimated that there are over 360,000 new diagnoses of cancer in the UK each year and this number continues to rise. With regular exercise there is a negative correlation associated with your risk of developing numerous cancers.
Exercise has been shown to reduce your risk of breast and bowel cancer by 25%. Studies have also shown that exercise will reduce your risk of many other cancers such as lung, prostate and womb cancer.
As previously discussed exercise will help with weight control and obesity is thought to lead to approx 23,000 cases of cancers according to Cancer Research UK. Being overweight has proven to be a major risk factor for developing cancer
Improves muscle and bone strength
One of the most widely known and accepted benefits of exercise would be its effect on the musculoskeletal system. Whether it is resistance or body weight training, exercise will play a vital role in building and maintaining strong bones and muscles.
As we age you have a tendency to lose muscle mass more readily in addition to reduced bone density. This puts the ageing population and post-menopausal women at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Regular physical activity will limit the rate at which these changes occur (Anton et al., 2018). Higher impact activities such as running, basketball etc have been shown to promote a higher bone density than non-contact sports.
Improves your brain health and memory
As well as physically keeping us fit, exercise helps to improve your brain health and memory. During exercise various proteins and chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin are released which enhances your brain structure and function.
Additionally, regular exercise has benefits on the hippocampus, the part of the brain that’s important in the development of new memories and learning. This leads to improved working memories, the ability to process thoughts and the ability to learn. This is important in increasing and maintaining mental function in older adults (Kirk-Sanchez & McGough, 2014)
Finally, exercise has been shown to limit changes in the brain structure which can lead to Alzheimer’s, dementia and schizophrenia (Predrinolla, Schena & Venturelli, 2017).
Although in the instance of pain exercise is often one of the first things which people sacrifice, in both acute and chronic pain exercise is often the best form of treatment to both manage and cure pain.
In common chronic conditions such as low back pain and osteoarthritic knees, for many years the advice given was one which promoted rest and inactivity. However, all the evidence now demonstrates that by performing regular exercise you can help not only manage chronic pain but improve your quality of life.
Regular physical exercise can also reduce and individuals perception of pain hence increasing their pain tolerance (Jones, et., 2014).
Improves sex life
The final benefit of exercise we will be discussing is that on your sexual life. Sexual functions are heavily reliant on good circulation. As we know from the blog so far exercise is one of the best things (if not the best thing) we can do to improve your cardiovascular system, blood circulation and muscle tone all which will boost your sex life.
A study in a group of 41 men showed that as little as a six-minute walk around the house helped to reduce symptoms of erectile dysfunction by 71%. Similarly, a study in a group of women in their 40s found that with strenuous exercises including resistance training, weight training and boot camps found they were more likely to orgasm with sexual intercourse (Ojanlatva et al., 2006).
Regular exercise offers a wide range of sort after benefits both long term and short term as discussed in this blog. Whilst this blog touched on a selection of physical, mental and brain health benefits as a result of exercise, in reality this list could have been a lot more extensive prior to us even considering the social aspect.
If you are struggling to get started with your exercise:
Find a physical activity or exercise you enjoy doing, only if you enjoy doing something are you likely to stick to it. This can range from HITT sessions to swimming to brisk walks with friends. For more information on HITT training head over to a fantastic blog written by The Home Physios
Try to establish your new exercise as part of your routine so you see it as less of an “inconvenience”. For example if you have a desk based job, try to find desk based exercises which are easy to perform in your work space; equally if you get public transport to/from work why not try getting off a stop earlier as part of your routine.
Set yourself realistic/SMART goals in order to help you keep up with your exercise. For example, completing 30 minutes of exercise 3 days weekly for 30 minutes and whilst doing this exercise it should be of a hard enough intensity that you feel slightly breathless but still able to hold a conversation.
If you are unsure of how much exercise you are expected to be completing, head over to our blog on this: https://www.aim4morephysiotherapy.co.uk/post/isjoewicksenough
Anton, S. D., Hida., Mankowski, R., Layne, A., Solberg, L.M., Manious, A. G & Buford, T. (2018). Nutrition and exercise in Sarcopenia. Current protein & peptide science. 19(7) 649-667
Church, T (2011). Exercise in obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. Progress in cardiovascular disease. 53(6) 412-8
Driver, H. S. & Taylor, S. R. (2000). Exercise and sleep. Sleep medicine review. 4(4). 387-402
Jones, M. D., Booth, J., Taylor, J. L & Barry, B.K. (2014). Aerobic training increases pain tolerance in healthy individuals. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 46(8) 1640-7
Kirk-Sanchez, N. J & McGough, E. L. (2014) Physical exercise and cognitive performance in the elderly: current perspective. Clinical intervention in aging. 9 51-62
Loprinzi, P. D & Cardinal, B. J (2011). Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep, NHANES 2005-2006. Mental health and physical activity. 4(2) 65-69 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1755296611000317
Ojanlatva, A., Makinen, J., Helenius, H., Korkeila, K., Sundell, J. & Rautava, P.(2006). Sexual activity and perceived health among Finnish middle-aged women. Health and quality of life outcomes. 10(4) 29
Predrinolla, A., Schena, F & Venturelli, M. (2017). Resilience to Alzheimers Disease: The Role of Physical Activity. Current Alzheimer Research. 14(5) 546-553
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