Why is exercise important? The top three benefits of exercise

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 overconsumption of calories and sedentary lifestyles have led to an obesity epidemic in the UK. Coronary heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and ‘syndrome X’ are all prevalent in today’s adult population.

Whilst many sufferers resort to prescription drugs and surgery to reverse these ailments, simply adopting a more structured diet and increasing physical activity can both reverse existing cases and obviate 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 for personal health plans. This alone emphasises the perceived importance of exercise in the medical world.

In this article, we will discuss the three main areas in which exercise can benefit the deconditioned trainer. We will explore the top three reasons to train, including to benefit the mental state, improve body health, and enhance physical aesthetics. 

Exercise and mental health

Many people in the UK resort to external stimuli to get their kick. In a society overrun with binge drinkers, recreational drug users, computer game junkies, and junk food, very few people actually get their endorphin rush from the exercise anymore.

Several scientific studies document the positive mental effect of 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.

Working out is known to provide you with a better nights sleep and sharper concentration. Since  Physical activity increases body temperature, which can have calming effects on the mind, exercise can help you fall asleep easier. It also helps to regulate your circadian rhythm so that you feel tired and alert at the right times. All this rest and recovery allows your brain to reset itself ready for the next day, leading to better memory, improved focus, and enhanced energy.

Not only that, physical movement can help to increase self-esteem and self-confidence. Achieving new goals, such as deadlifting your own body weight for the first time, gives an incredible boost of self-esteem. Regularly meeting new targets and creating a new routine gives the brain a much-needed serotonin boost, making you happier and more confident in the long run.

Physical benefits of exercise

Physiologically, the benefits from exercise alone are endless in terms of both general health and fitness. In the short term, with cardio and weight training, posture and flexibility are enhanced in the seasoned trainer. Simple niggles and pains can be avoided by carrying out resistance and floor-based exercises. With cases of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis on the increase, it seems a logical decision to incorporate a basic trainer to obviate the condition and to enhance the quality of life in later years.

There are a plethora of long term effects of exercise too. 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. Simply adopting the three x 30-minute method each week will see a significant reduction in blood pressure 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 stronger heart, pumping more efficiently again is a bi-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.

A lowered low-density lipoproteins (LDL) level, which is the “bad” cholesterol, and an increase in high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, are both associated with physical training.

Type 2 diabetes is also becoming a major issue, with many people who are simply ingesting too many calories 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 were 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.

Many of these issues are closely linked and can be alleviated in unison, demonstrating the importance of exercise. It’s not by fluke that many people suffer from a range of the ailment, instead, it is merely the knock-on effect from one to another.

Incredibly, exercise is even believed to alleviate and prevent some forms of cancer. Although research in the area is in its infancy, some studies suggest forms of cancer such as breast cancer in females can be avoided if exercise is conducted regularly, regardless of age. As stated the research is not yet conclusive, however, it 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.

Body aesthetics

Aesthetics 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.

Many women wonder “how to get an hourglass waist” or “how to get a flat stomach”. The answer is simply a combination of cardio and weight training. The misconception of women’s bodybuilding and weight training making females masculine or overly muscular needs to be quashed for the benefit of future generations. Weight training, through various mechanisms actually reduces body fat, increases metabolically active tissue, and aids posture in those who embrace it. Ultimately, this allows you to achieve the desired physique.

Cardiovascular and weight training will lead to fat loss. This bi-product of training can fall into both categories in terms of physiological benefits for both health and aesthetics. Not only is a lower body fat percentage more aesthetically pleasing in the main, but it also has many health benefits including avoiding type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Final thoughts

There are countless reasons why exercise is important. Ultimately, moving your body makes you feel good mentally, improves your physical effects, and allows you to achieve a desired aesthetic.

Whatever your reason to train, be sure to support your exercise regime with a balanced diet. Here at Performance Meals, our expertly crafted high protein ready meals ensure you get all the nutrition your body needs to fuel your next workout and meet your goals.

Back to Support Zone