Do you exercise? Is it something you enjoy? Is exercise part of your daily routine? Do you do enough? Are you aware of WHY you should exercise and the benefits it provides (and no – I don’t mean for a ‘bikini body’ 🙂 ?
Some people LOVE exercise – and for others it can be a real chore (or relegated to the too hard basket). However, exercise can improve your health in a number of ways no matter your age or current fitness level. I’m not just talking about being fitter and stronger. I’m talking about overall health and longevity.
Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, risk of diabetes, and arthritis. While you may have been aware of those things, you may not have been aware that exercise also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep – plus exercise prevents death from any cause (“all cause mortality”).
Have I convinced you yet?
Many of the benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. They are also due to moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.
More good news – you don’t have to do one particular kind of exercise. You don’t even need to join a gym if that’s not your scene. There are four types of exercise and each have their own health benefits. The four types are:
- Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, gardening, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming)
- Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates)
- Balance (standing on one foot, Tai Chi)
- Flexibility (stretching, yoga)
Don’t forget, all exercise counts, even if it’s not doing a sport or inside a gym. Weekend hikes, walking to the shops and doing household chores also count towards your weekly exercise goal.
Let me briefly explain some of the main reasons exercise is so good for you. Here are a few key points.
Exercise for heart health
Exercise has been show to reduce cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack.
Regular exercise has been show to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).
Exercise for brain health
For people with Parkinson’s disease, exercise has been shown to improve physical function and quality of life in people. It also been shown to reduce changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercising has also been linked to improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory, and also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the “hippocampus”); this was shown mostly with aerobic exercise.
Exercise for muscle and bone health
Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones; this is particularly true for strength exercises. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget that balance exercises such as Tai Chi can help prevent falls.
Exercise for diabetes
People with diabetes who exercise have been reported to have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control).
Exercise does this because by contracting your muscles, you’re fueling them with sugar in your blood, which in turn helps to manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise.
These reasons are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits of exercise. By doing just 30 minutes 5 days/week, you can vastly improve your health. Since there are different benefits for different types of exercise, try mixing up what you do throughout the week. You don’t even need an “official” workout. Walking to the supermarket or doing household chores (although turning on the washing machine might be a stretch 😉 ) can count too.
If you’re just starting, then pick something you enjoy, get some accountability (exercise tracker or a buddy), and start.
What’s your favourite exercise and how often do you do it?
If you’re not sure where to start drop me a line – or check out my FREE 10 minute workout guide below!