Exercise: Health Benefits of Regular Physical Activity
For centuries, alchemists, doctors and scientists have sought a magic pill.
This remedy would make our brains sharper, our bodies stronger, and make us stay younger and attractive for longer. It would prevent us from getting sick and make us feel happy.
Alas! They have failed to synthesise any such medicine.
But just like in rom-com movies the solution has been right in front of our eyes!
Regular exercise has all these advantages and more. So let’s learn about its benefits.
Health Benefits of Regular Exercise
We all faced the pandemic. The main target groups were the senior citizens and people with debilitating conditions. Why? Poor immunity.
We all know exercise is good for our health. So let’s look at the stats – CDC mentions that about 40% of deaths are due to diseases like obesity, stroke, and cardiovascular ailments.
A significant number of these chronic diseases are preventable just by exercising 30 min a day. Studies show that by exercising 800kcal/week, subjects were shown to reduce the mortality rate by 25%.
- Manages your weight
High-intensity workouts can shed around 600 calories/hr. If you can find time to go to the gym, great but if you have a hectic schedule and can’t find the time, you can find other ways to stay active like taking the stairs or going out for a walk or engaging in household work like cleaning.
Remember, you only can benefit from this if you are consistent.
- Keeps diseases at bay
A French study has recently found a correlation between inactivity and diminished immunity. It is said that a lack of activity can cause a decrease in the levels of B lymphocytes which are responsible for warding off diseases.
Mild to moderate levels of daily exercise increases the levels of HDL(high-density lipoproteins) and reduce the level of unhealthy triglycerides. The dual action protects your heart from cardiovascular disease risks.
The benefits of regular exercise include preventing or managing several health concerns, such as
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Many types of cancer
- High blood pressure
It also improves cognitive functions and delays age-related conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Exercise improves mood
Exercise is known to release chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine. These chemicals are known to reduce stress, elevate mood, reduce lethargy and improve brain function. It improves confidence and helps you relax.
- Exercise boosts energy
Working out improves oxygen levels in blood and tissues. This means you get more lung capacity and more energy.
For most healthy adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines:
- Aerobic Activity / Cardio – The range lies from 150 min of moderate to 75 min of vigorous exercise in a week. For those trying to lose weight a 300 min session is recommended. The guidelines recommend splitting the workout throughout the week. Examples- running, swimming, dancing
- Strength training– It is recommended to perform strength training for all major muscles twice a week. Examples include resistance training, plyometrics, weightlifting, and sprinting.
- Callisthenics: Exercises of this type are typically performed without gym equipment using large muscle groups. It’s an aerobic workout done at a medium pace. A few examples are lunges, situps, pushups, and pull-ups.
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT). Exercises of this type include short bursts of high-intensity activity, followed by periods of lower intensity.
- Boot camps. Exercises that combine aerobics and resistance are performed in timed, high-intensity circuits.
- Balance: Strengthening muscles and improving body coordination are the goals of these exercises. Examples: Core-strengthening exercises include Pilates and Tai Chi poses.
Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any concerns about your fitness, haven’t exercised for a long time, have chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis.
Finding Time to Exercise
This concept itself isn’t sustainable. Instead of making time to exercise we need to first prioritize it as a regular essential activity.
Establish a System:
- Habit Development– As per the author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits, the process of establishing a habit is
1) make it obvious, 2) make it attractive, 3) make it easy, and 4) make it satisfying.
Here’s what you can try to get the best out of it,
- You can attach this habit of exercising to an already existing habit like your morning beverage.
- You can keep your workout clothes ready the night before, (prepare),
- Start the routine after you sip your morning tea,
- Start with basic and simple exercises if you havent done them in a while,
- Reward yourself with a nourishing and tasty breakfast bowl once you are done.
Rising early is a great way to create time for exercise. It comes with a plethora of benefits such as increased energy and a better mood throughout the day. It wakes you up far better than caffeine and releases BDNF- a hormone that makes you smarter.
Also Read: Body Recomposition: Lose Fat and Gain Muscle
Understand your energy and mood-
On some days you might breeze through your routine without a worry. On others, you may struggle to even do the first rep. The secret lies in feeling the state of your body and mind and avoiding extremes. Don’t push yourself too far. At the same time, don’t let a low-energy state prevent you from starting. Mood follows action and not the other way around.
Start with Alternate days of exercise
If you are one of those people who tend to live in extremes, alternate-day exercise is a great way to maintain constancy.
Start with a friend
Working out with a friend is a great way to have accountability.
Find your clan
Join a yoga group, and make friends at your gym. Working out together helps with socialising as well as getting fit.
Keep track of your performance
Maintain a habit tracker or write down in your journal
Add a reminder
A lot of apps help you keep track of your daily habits. Daily reminders can also help you be consistent.
Tips for starting:
If you are a beginner and want to start your health journey, these are the top 10 facts that you should keep in mind
- Health- In case you have any health conditions like CVD or asthma, ask your physician to inform you about restrictions.
- Goal – It is very important to set small attainable goals and develop a reward system to begin the process.
- Habit- Habit is an equally important criterion for sustainability
- Hydration- Exercising can lead to dehydration and post work out fatigue for which hydration is super important.
- Nutrition- We lose essential micronutrients through sweat when we work out,
- Warm-up- Pre-workout warm-up can reduce your chances of injury.
- Cool down- Beginner burnout can hit hard if you don’t cool down after each season.
- Listen to your body- Be kind to your body and be patient. Start with basics
- Educate yourself – Knowledge eliminates ignorance, creates awareness and enhances your relationship with your body.
- Track it – Maintain a journal or keep a habit tracker to check your progress.
What is good exercise?
Almost all exercise is good exercise. But to be more specific, you need to consider your goals, experience, and fitness. Good exercise should make you work up a sweat and push you to your limits without going so fast that you end up injured. Studies show that even exercising 800kcal/week, can reduce the mortality rate by 25%
Is walking an exercise?
Brisk walking is indeed a mild form of exercise. Several studies have shown that talking walks are great for fitness, mood and creativity. Dr Andrew Weil recommends walking as one of the main modes of exercise.
What are 8 good exercises?
Here are eight good exercises.
Remember that a good exercise routine is more important than good exercise.
How do I exercise every day?
Before asking this question, ask if you truly need to exercise every day. Rest and recovery are important elements of exercising.
You ought to aim for consistency and that comes by setting small and realistic targets, trying to work out at the same time every session and rewarding yourself for maintaining your streak. Building momentum in this way will soon make it more difficult to quit than to continue exercising.
In the words of Charles Duhigg “Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change”. So start the journey and you’ll see the changes yourself.