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.
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.