The benefits of exercise

Aside from encouraging positive aesthetic changes, regular exercise brings about many mental and health benefits. Exercise will improve all aspects of your life, and it will create a better physical and psychological state of being. It is the best medicine you will find!

Exercise will help prevent heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the western world. It also prevents osteoporosis, stroke, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, muscular atrophy and the onset of type 2 diabetes. If you regularly exercise, you will be ill less often and you will live longer.

The likelihood of developing cardiovascular-related conditions is lowered due to a strengthened heart muscle, lowered blood pressure and improved blood flow brought on by exercise. It will also improve the balance of cholesterol in your blood, reducing the amount of bad cholesterol (low density lipoprotein or LDL) and increasing the amount of good cholesterol (high density lipoprotein or HDL).

Exercise, along with a healthy diet, will reduce the risk of obesity. Being obese is a large contributing factor towards the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Exercise burns calories and increases your metabolism, as your metabolic rate remains elevated for up to 24 hours post exercise.

As you age, your bone mass decreases and can lead to osteoporosis. While some general wear and tear is normal and cannot be avoided, there are certain steps you can take to counteract arthritic joints, back pain and osteoporosis. By regularly exercising, you will keep your joints mobile and your bones strong. Load-bearing exercises in the form of resistance training are especially important, but it is also crucial to spend time strengthening the back and stretching the joints.

A recent trial as outlined in The Ten Secrets of Healthy Ageing by Patrick Holford and Jerome Burne suggested that exercise can outperform certain expensive cancer drugs. Patients with advanced recurrent brain cancer who walked 30 minutes per day, five days a week, were found to live nearly twice as long as those who were sedentary.

The psychological effects of regular physical activity should not be downplayed. Exercise will improve your mood, give you more energy, boost your self-confidence, increase sleep quality and assist with stress management. Some studies prove that regular exercise is more effective at treating depression than medication, the latter of which can bring about negative side effects. People who exercise often will generally see a positive flow-on effect into all aspects of their lives, as they are able to perform better and manage their time more efficiently.

Managing stress is important as it has a host of negative consequences, with Holford and Burne stating that those of us who are regularly stressed have a five-fold increased risk of dying from heart-related problems. They explain: “Stress affects the heart because you respond to it by producing adrenalin, which pushes up blood sugar levels, raises blood pressure and increases both blood clotting agents and LDL cholesterol.”

Regular exercise helps limit the negative effects of ageing. As we age we lose muscle, balance and coordination – which can often lead to serious injuries if falls result. People should continue to train their balance, flexibility, strength and cardiorespiratory fitness well into old age. Maintaining muscle mass will prevent developing the classic elderly hunched-over posture. Exercise will also reduce the chance of developing cognitive impairment associated with age, as it strengthens the mind.

Exercise guidelines
To maximise general health benefits, it is recommended that you exercise at a moderate intensity at least five times a week for 30 minutes. It should consist of both aerobic exercise – which strengthens the heart, burns calories and helps with fat loss – as well as resistance training, which builds and maintains muscle mass and strength and in turn burns fat. For example, you could perform two days of weight training and three days of brisk walking per week.

Start off gently and build it up as your fitness levels increase. If you are very unfit or overweight, it is a good idea to seek professional guidance and support at the beginning.

Unfortunately, 95 per cent of the UK population do not get the recommended amount of exercise. Being inactive is a silent killer, and is highly likely to manifest into something much more harmful as described above. Not only should you try to increase your physical activity level, you should also try to limit the amount of time you spend sitting down in your daily life.

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Be the best you can be! (Part two)

In case you missed it, here is part one in our series of why you should be the best you can be. Below are five more reasons you must reach your full potential:

6. Be like the greatest, Ali
Why do we hate to see a boxer throw a fight? Because it is a lie. Because there is no heart. No courage. No emotion. He is not being true to his potential. And the feeling in the stadium is palpable. We feel empty, that we have been cheated. He didn’t even try. He just gave up!

You can’t say that about Ali!

Here was a man who was driven by a dream to be the best. He had the courage to take risks. He had a belief in himself; a determination to succeed. The willpower and persistence to put in all the hours of training to realise his greatness.

To discover the self, and develop it to its full realisation. That is our duty. -Oscar Wilde

7. Learn from nature – don’t lose what you already have
It is a law of nature. We are either growing or dying. A tree doesn’t reach a point only halfway to its potential and stop – it keeps going until it is fully grown. The bible states that “Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

What you don’t use, you will lose. When muscles are not used, they waste away and atrophy. Limbs that don’t move become inflexible and immobile. Hearts and lungs that aren’t challenged become weaker.

Our physical power is dependent on using the power we already possess. However, don’t let obstacles stop you. Understand there will be challenges and trials and, without them, we can’t get better. Without the trials we can’t develop our talents. Embrace the obstacles to become more.

A diamond is not polished without friction nor a man perfected without trials.

8. Be rewarded with greater power   
The more we give, the more we get. The more effort we put in, the more power we receive. The woman who wishes to get fit and lean must make use of the fitness she already has. The more she gives, the more fitness and vitality she will receive.

Simply start with what you have. Just try a little bit more; do a bit better than you did yesterday. Begin with small things you can do, and gradually you will accomplish more and more.

Your heart and lungs will develop greater capacity and efficiency. You will have more muscular strength and endurance, and greater resolve and determination. Life will reward you with more resources and capabilities. With each accomplishment, your confidence and self belief will increase.

Explore your mind, discover yourself, then give the best that is in you to your age and to your world. There are heroic possibilities waiting to be discovered in every person. -Wilfred Peterson

9. Feel better – don’t compare yourself with others
John Wooden is one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time and was inducted into the basketball hall of fame, both as a coach and a player. He lead UCLA to a total of ten NCAA national championships in a twelve year period, including seven in a row. Within this period, they also won a record 88 consecutive games.

His creed was to perform at your best when your best is required. And your best is required each day. One of his maxims was: Be the best you, that you can be! By this he meant it doesn’t matter how good the other person is; it only matters how good you are. You are compared to your own capability.

We are all endowed with different abilities and genetics. We can always strive to maximise our potential but it is often detrimental to compare ourselves with others. You are a success as long as you did the best that you were capable of.

I don’t believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be. -Ken Venturi

10. If you don’t try your best you will never know…
You will never know what you could have achieved if you don’t try your best. You will not get to experience what it is like for your body to realise its full potential.

What were you physically capable of becoming? Just how fit and how strong could you have been?

The force of life is seeking expression through you. If you stop that you are unable to receive any more, and you are killing a part of yourself. The world will miss out on your unique contribution. Your piece of art and your vitality. Your solution to a problem.

Listen to that desire that resides inside you. The desire to be more. To experience more. To test your capabilities. To take the challenge. To discover what you are made of. Dare yourself to go for it. Be creative. Don’t give up. Be persistent. Begin the adventure.

“The worst thing one can do is not to try, to be aware of what one wants and not give in to it, to spend years in silent hurt wondering if something could have materialized – and never knowing” -David Viscott

So why even bother to be the best you can be?
Why not?
Why not you?
Why not now?

These are the questions to ask yourself when all is said and done:
Did you do all you could with what you were given?
Did you use the gifts life has given you? Your intellectual, physical, and spiritual gifts.
Or did you sacrifice your gifts by giving less than your best!

Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be. -George Sheehan