Benefits of exercise - Why is exercise important?
The 21st Century has enabled the majority of people to do everything from the comfort of their home and PC. The notion of manual labour is slowly dying out and people in the Western World are living a more sedentary lifestyle compared to 50 years ago. Unfortunately, the intake of food has not decreased in line and the food ingested is of a lower quality compared to previous generations. Heavily processed foods combined with over-consumption of calories and sedentary lifestyles have lead to an obesity epidemic in the UK. CHD (coronary heart disease), strokes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and ‘syndrome X’ are all prevalent in today’s adult population.
Many sufferers resort to prescription drugs and surgery to reverse the ailments stated above and to lose weight. However, simply adopting a more structured diet and increasing physical activity can both reverse existing cases and remove the likelihood of encountering them in the future. It comes as no surprise to fitness industry professionals that large private health companies are now offering free, or discounted gym memberships for those who sign up to their personal health plans. This alone emphasises the perceived importance of exercise in the medical world. Previously there was a culture of ‘fire fighting’ as opposed to addressing the root cause.
For the benefit of this article, the 3 main areas in which exercise can benefit the deconditioned trainer will be classified as psychological (mental health), physiological (health and ‘fitness’ based) and physiological (aesthetic-based). Below are, in no particular order, a whole host of reasons why people should embrace the benefits of regular exercise into their daily regimes.
Health Benefits of ExerciseWeight training and cardiovascular exercise, such as indoor cycling, will increase motor control and coordination, something that can be transferred to everyday life skills (among other exercise bike benefits.) Self-efficacy is also shown to be heightened in many of those who train. In short, this means although not task-specific, the use of exercise can aid other aspects of your life in terms of competence and confidence. Some of life’s simple pleasures such as playing with your children in the park can be significantly enhanced through structured exercise.
Many people in the UK resort to external stimuli to get their kicks. In a society overrun with binge drinkers, recreational drug users, computer game junkies and TV dinners, very few people actually get their endorphin rush from the exercise anymore. Many scientific studies document the mental benefits of exercise and physical training on mood, anxiety and long term depression. Sport or physical exercise is often prescribed before medication for those suffering from depression and similar related issues. Simply employing three 30 minute sessions a week is enough to increase self-esteem and a feeling of well being according to many published papers.
Benefits of Aerobic ExercisePhysiologically, the benefits of high intensity exercise alone are endless in terms of both general health and fitness. Lowered blood pressure as a result of cardiovascular training is well documented and advisable for all of those who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (BP). Simply adopting the three x 30-minute method each week will see a significant reduction in BP when combined with a structured diet. Studies have even shown a drop of about 10mmHg in blood pressure readings after only 6 months of continuous exercise. Whilst this is neither a given nor definitive it gives an idea of how easy it is to reverse such conditions as elevated blood pressure.
A lowered LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level, which is the ‘bad’ cholesterol, and an increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein), the ‘good’ cholesterol, are both associated with physical training. A stronger heart, pumping more efficiently again is a by-product of low-intensity cardio such as cycling, jogging or power walking. In layman’s terms, the heart muscles are strengthened and the arteries become less clogged up by simply employing three sessions of cardio based training each week (when accompanied by a clean, structured diet).
Many of the issues stated above are closely linked and can be alleviated in unison. It’s not by fluke that many people suffer from a range of ailments stated in this document but merely the knock-on effect from one to another. With cardio, and more evidently weight training, posture and flexibility are enhanced in the seasoned trainer. Simple ‘niggles’ can be avoided by carrying out resistance and floor-based exercises. With cases of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis on this increase, it seems a logical decision to incorporate basic trainer to obviate the condition and to enhance the quality of life in later years.
Although research in the area is in its infancy, some studies even suggest forms of cancer, such as breast cancer in females, can be avoided if exercise is conducted on a regular basis, regardless of age. As stated the research is not yet conclusive but does offer yet another reason why people should participate in the exercise. For those recovering from cancer, exercise has been shown to boost the immune system and thus hinder the chances of cancer returning. Exciting research elsewhere has linked exercise with the reduction of bowel cancer. Again, the mechanisms are not known but the likely reason is an alteration in hormone levels associated with both cardiovascular and resistance training being the likely cause. Whilst the empirical evidence is sparse in these areas the positive factors associated with exercise, such as weight loss will help in the fight against certain cancer types.
Social Benefits of ExerciseAesthetics in the 21st Century seem to have become more important than ever, especially in the UK and Western World. Beauty ‘rules’ in most social circles with people often going to excessive lengths to enhance their physical appeal. Exercise alone can improve body composition and delay the physical ageing process. A combination of weight training and cardiovascular exercise will lower body fat, alter body composition and provide the physique of an athlete opposed to that of a 21st Century couch potato. The BMI (body mass index) of many sedentary people seems to be rapidly shifting towards the 30s as obesity levels increase. This again can be reversed and ultimately avoided by employing the simple measures outlined previously, three cardio sessions and two weights sessions per week. Exercise doesn’t have to be for several hours a day, 60 minutes is plenty of time for your regular physical activity.
Weight Training Misconceptions
The misconception of weight training making females masculine or overly muscular needs to be quashed for the benefit of future generations. The main reason they become obese or out of shape is due to an over-consumption of calories which leads to higher body fat levels and the medical complications that follow. Weight training, through various mechanisms actually reduces body fat, increases metabolically active tissue and aids posture in those who embrace it. Cardiovascular and weight training will lower body fat, period. This bi-product of training can fall into both categories in terms of physiological benefits (both health and aesthetics). Not only is a lower body fat percentage more aesthetically pleasing in the main but also has many health benefits including avoiding type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Type 2 diabetes is becoming a major issue with many people who are simply ingesting too many calories (and of a poor nature) whilst being sedentary. The ‘food pyramid’ and government calorie recommendations simply don’t fit in with today’s activity levels in the majority of UK citizens. At the turn of the 21st Century, 1 in 5 adults in the UK was classed as obese. This figure is rapidly rising and simple measures such as cardio and weight training can initially halt and ultimately reverse this trend.
This article has merely skimmed the surface and in-depth research can be conducted in each area documented to further understand just how important simple exercise is for your health, fitness and aesthetics.
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