You may have figured out that I am a little obsessed with exercise. I love going to the gym and “playing” with all the equipment. I love how strong I feel and how energized I am after a good workout. But, I do totally admit that sometimes I can overdo it and perhaps negate the health benefits of exercise!
Exercise is super important for your health, though. Our bodies were designed for frequent movement, not for sitting at desks or in front of the TV most of the time. Unfortunately, whether we can control this or not, this is the direction our lives have taken. But, you can still reap the health benefits of exercise even if you can only fit it in a few times a week.
Exercise and working out isn’t just about getting stronger or running faster. It can improve your overall health and longevity, not to mention reduce risk of diseases, help balance hormones, and improve joint and bone health.
Plus, regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep. And exercise prevents death from something called “all-cause mortality”, which basically means any cause at all.
Understand the Health Benefits of Exercise
The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow,and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. (And you know how important both of these things are to women’s health, right?) More benefits come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.
To get these health benefits of exercise, you don’t need to go overboard on exercise either. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is totally fine.
It also doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, either. You pick something that you enjoy and work within those limits!
To help you out, though, I’ve listed 4 main types of exercise to choose from:
- Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming, anything that lasts 20 minutes or more in a relative steady state of movement)
- Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates; anything that pushes your muscles beyond the everyday)
- Balance (standing on one foot, Tai Chi; movements that work the smaller muscles to improve your balance and prevent falls)
- Flexibility (stretching, yoga; keeps those muscles supple and fluid)
Don’t forget, all exercise counts, even if it’s not doing a sport or in a gym. Weekend hikes, walking to the store and doing household chores also count towards your weekly exercise goal.
Immune System Benefits
Your lymphatic system is part of your immunity. Its fluids gather debris and toxins and move them towards the heart for elimination. When you’re sedentary, this system doesn’t work very well.
To keep your body healthy and reduce inflammation and improve lymphatic fluid flow, skeletal muscle movement is required. So, the more often you move, the less likely you’ll get sick!
Heart Health Benefits
Exercise reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack.
Regular exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).
Brain Health Benefits
Exercise can improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involvedin learning and memory. It also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the “hippocampus”); this was shownmostly with aerobic exercise.
Muscle and Bone Health Benefits
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, exerciseregularly.
PRO TIP: And don’t forget that balance exercises and Tai Chi can help prevent falls.
Insulin and Blood Sugar Health Benefits
People with dysglycemia or diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control).
Exercise does this because, by contracting them, you’re fueling your muscles with sugar in your blood. This helps to manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise. This is why it’s also better to do strength exercises when you’re trying to get rid of stubborn body fat!
More health benefits of exercise exist – your body loves to move and, in doing so, you’ll keep your organs, muscles and body systems happy and healthy long into your life.
All it takes is a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate movement or exercise 5 times a week. Always listen to your body and perform activities that don’t cause injury or pain. If you’re just starting out, a 30 minute walk is perfect!
If you’re looking to boost the health benefits of exercise, try mixing up your workouts and activity. Your body can adapt to certain movements and exercises, so it’s always a good idea to try new things every 4-6 weeks.
And, always focus on stretching and balance, too. You’ll thank me later when you’re older and trying to navigate through snow and ice!