‘An activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.’ Just as the definition states, exercise is essential for health and fitness.
Importance of exercise.
It’s important to remember that we have evolved from nomadic ancestors who spent all their time moving around in search of food and shelter, travelling large distances on a daily basis. Our bodies designed and have evolved to be regularly active. In the same way that a sports car is designed to go fast, we are designed to move. If the sports car is taken out once a week for a 5 kilometre round trip through a town centre, then it would probably develop engine problems fairly quickly.
Overtime people too develop problems if they sit down all day at a desk or in front of the TV and minimise the amount of exercise they do.
Benefits of exercise:
There are many benefits of regular exercise and maintaining fitness and these include:
- Increases energy levels: Exercise improves both strength and efficiency of cardiovascular system to get the oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.
- Improves muscle strength: Staying active keeps muscles strong and joints, tendons and ligaments flexible allowing one to move more easily and avoiding injury. They also help coordination and balance.
- Helps maintain healthy weight: The more muscle one develops, the higher the metabolic rate becomes, so more calories are burnt even when not exercising.
- Good for heart: Exercise helps reduce LDL cholesterol (the ones which clog the arteries) and increases HDL (good cholesterol) and reduces blood pressure. It also strengthens heart muscles and lowers the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
- Lowers the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes: Exercise helps control blood sugar levels which prevents onset of diabetes.
- Enhances immune system: Exercise improves body’s ability to pump oxygen and nutrients around the body that are required to fuel the cells that fight bacteria and viruses.
- Helps reduce the likelihood of developing degenerative bone diseases: Weight bearing exercises lowers the risk of both osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
- Helps reduce risk of certain cancers: Exercise helps reduce the risk of colon, breast, lung and endometrial cancers. Studies suggest that 35% of all cancer deaths are linked to being overweight and sedentary.
- Helps improve sleep: Physical activity makes one tired and thus ready to sleep. Quality sleep improves overall wellness and reduce stress.
- Improves mood and overall sense of well-being: Physical activity stimulates release of endorphins which makes one feel better and more relaxed. These in turn helps improve mood and lowers stress levels.
- Helps prevent and treat mental illnesses: Exercise helps reduce stress levels, cope with frustration and give a sense of achievement which help with depression.
- Reduces the effects of ageing.
To stay healthy, adults should try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through variety of activities.
For any type of activity to benefit your health, you need to be moving quick enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer. This level of effort is called ‘moderate intensity activity’. An activity where you have to work even harder is called ‘vigorous intensity activity’.
Overall though, any activity that gets you moving gets your heart rate up and gives you enough pleasure to do it regularly and often is good for you in almost every way.