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Why exercise?

Last Updated: 09 December 2018

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Why exercise?

Often when people hit the gym or drag themselves out before work for a run, their motivation is weight loss, or finding that elusive perfect physique. Yet unfortunately, it’s widely been shown that physical activity programmes rarely result in significant weight loss. And while it’s great to have a strong motivation to exercise, there are many other more important reasons than weight loss to stay active. 

Heart health

Studies have found that exercise programmes lead to muscle and bone adaptations that improve the way fat and sugar are handled in the body, greater blood flow, reduced blood pressure, improved blood fat profiles as well as reductions in the inflammatory markers that are linked to heart disease. These beneficial effects are seen in individuals even if they don’t lose weight.

If heart disease is something you think you don’t need to worry about at this time in your life then be warned - research shows that maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout young adulthood is strongly associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in middle age and older age.

The best exercise to boost your heart health is anything that gets your blood pumping quicker and your breathing rate up - but it doesn’t need to be very high intensity. A brisk walk, a cycle, a swim or even dancing can be great ways to add activity to your daily life. Set a minimum goal of thirty minutes a day and start to reap the benefits.

 

Bone health

Exercise is vital for healthy bones at every age - this difference here is that the best form of exercise must be weight-bearing. This means anything from walking, jogging, weight training, playing tennis or even tai chi. The exercises that aren’t included are swimming, cycling and rowing or anything else performed sitting down - although these types of exercise are still great for improving other areas of health.

If you’ve been told that you’ve got low bone density or have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it’s important that you follow a specific exercise programme for your condition - this will often mean focusing on increasing strength, balance and aerobic fitness and avoiding certain movements like spinal twisting, flexion and high impact weighted exercise.

 

Mental health

One of the quickest benefits of exercise to experience is the increase in mood. In fact, a recent study found that short bursts of just five minutes of exercise each hour increased mood more than a longer session of thirty minutes.  In addition to this, the study found that people doing the shorter bursts of exercise had fewer food cravings and less fatigue at the end of the day - all the more reason to break up your working day with short activity spells.

 

Protect yourself from coughs and colds

It’s a fact that regular moderate exercise helps to increase immunity so that you’ll be less likely to pick up infections like stomach bugs, colds, mouth ulcers and throat infections. Yet this effect is only seen with moderate exercise like walking, gentle cycling, gardening and badminton. Once you go over the threshold into intense exercise (activities where your heart rate is much higher, you sweat a lot and are breathing very heavily), your immunity actually decreases and you’ll be at greater risk of infections.  So it’s important that if you are exercising intensely on a regular basis, to support your immune system with a healthy balanced diet, rest and plenty of sleep!

 

 

Written by Ruth Tongue
(MSc Nutrition)

 

Sources:
1. Liu, K et al. Healthy Lifestyle through Young Adulthood and Presence of Low Cardiovasculat Disease Risk Profile in Middle Age: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in (Young) Adults (CARDIA) Study. Circulation. 2012 Feb 28; 125(8): 996-1004.
2. Bergouignan, A et al. Effect of frequent interruptions of prolonged sitting on self-perceived levels of energy, mood, food cravings and cognitive function. International Journal of Behaviour Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2016 13:113 DOI: 10. 1186/s12966-016-0437-z.

Categories:
Fitness
Goals & motivation
Weight loss
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