Healthy living is not all about healthy eating, nutrition and living your life more naturally, avoiding toxic chemicals whenever possible. Healthy living is also about exercising and staying active and if you really want to be healthy, exercise should be an important part of your lifestyle.
We all know exercise is good for us and that we should all regularly exercise and be active. Currently, The Department of Health recommends adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week. But why should we be active? To lose weight? To keep it off?
Whether you need to lose weight or not, you should be active and the main reason is your HEALTH. Exercise has many health benefits, can improve health and prevent major illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer. For the purpose of this article I looked at various studies and known facts and here I summarise some of the health benefits of exercise and how it can improve health. I hope that after you read this you will have more motivation to exercise!
Exercise reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes
Regular physical activity reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and it is also important for patients already diagnosed with diabetes as it has a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity. There’s been several studies which have demonstrated how exercise contributes to diabetes prevention and diabetes risk reduction. What they found at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US was that people who regularly exercised at a moderate intensity had a 31% reduction in their risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who were sedentary.
Just to keep in mind that diabetes significantly increases risk for heart disease and it’s the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure among adults – another reason why we should do everything we can to prevent it.
Exercise reduces your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia
Exercise plays an important part at preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s. A 35- year study from Cardiff University found that people who followed specific healthy lifestyle habits experienced a 60% decline in dementia, compared with those who followed none. Most importantly, exercise was the most significant healthy lifestyle habit out of all.
Exercise may also help those who already have Alzheimer’s. A review published by The Cochrane Collaboration has shown that exercise may help improve cognition for people with dementia and their ability to perform day to day activities.
Exercise can improve mental health
It’s well know that exercise can improve your mood due to endorphins and other feel-good hormones which are released during exercise. If you have mild to moderate depression moderate exercise such as brisk walking may be enough to improve your mood. Try going for a walk every day for 30 minutes to help reduce depressive feelings.
Exercise keeps your heart healthy and prevents cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease is the medical name for all the diseases of heart and circulatory system which includes coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack, angina and heart failure. It is one of the UK’s biggest killers but luckily there are several things you can do to prevent it and one of them is by being active.
So how does physical activity reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease?
Physical activity strengthens your heart, reduces your blood pressure and reduces “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood. It also helps you to maintain a healthy weight which is important for reducing your chances of developing high blood pressure.
Exercise also makes the blood less likely to clot which is one of the most important mechanisms at reducing stroke and heart disease. It does that by reducing levels of fibrinogen – a protein produced by liver which helps stop bleeding by helping blood clots to form.
Being active also helps to fight the heart disease whatever your age. See this video made by British Heart Foundation where you will see how exercise helped Colin who had a heart attack.
Exercise and arthritis
Exercise also plays an important role at knee osteoarthritis prevention as it builds up muscle around joints which increases stability and quadriceps strength. It also contributes to cartilage health which is important in preventing osteoarthritis. This information is particularly useful to those who have suffered knee injuries in the past (me!) as they are at higher risk of knee arthritis but with the right exercise this risk can be reduced.
What is more, exercise has a positive effect on those already suffering from arthritis as it can ease stiffness, improve joint movement and improve other arthritis symptoms.
Exercise and bones
Exercise helps to build stronger bones and can improve bone density in people over 40. But it’s not any type of exercise that can help your bones get stronger. To reap the benefits, you should be doing weight-resistance exercises such as strength training and exercises that use your body weight such as jogging and skipping.
“Many people shy away from weightlifting because of a fear of getting too muscly”, says Robin Young, CEO of health and fitness price comparison site, Fitness Savvy.
“Indeed, building muscle and increasing strength are two well-known benefits of resistance training. However, more and more studies show that lifting weights might be more beneficial than traditional cardio exercises such as cycling or running. It’s also important to remember that bodybuilders spend years on dedicated training and nutritional programmes – designed specifically for packing on muscle, so you shouldn’t worry about getting too bulky if that’s not your goal”, says Robin.
Exercise can strengthen immune system
Exercise has a beneficial effect to the immune system. Natural killer cells which are responsible for strong immune system are highly influenced by physical activity. After moderate exercise the immune system will often be temporarily enhanced which will protect you from infections. Be careful though as too much exercise can have the opposite effect and can reduce the functioning of the immune system.
Exercise and cancer
Exercise can help to prevent cancer and also improve health of existing cancer sufferers.
There are several ways of how exercise can prevent different types of cancer. It can affect certain hormones levels which can affect cancers such as breast, prostate and ovarian. It also increases insulin resistance, which is linked to many cancers.
Exercise also reduces chronic inflammation – triggered by environmental (eg. infection, tobacco) and other factors – which is associated with a higher risk of cancer.
Dr. Sircus explained how exercise impacts those already suffering from cancer:
A study of 45 peer-reviewed articles published from January 1950 to August 2011 shows that exercisers are less likely to die of their cancers than non-exercisers. In addition, observational studies strongly showed that exercise is associated with reduced death from breast and colon cancers specifically. Those who exercised were also less likely to die from other diseases such as heart attacks.
A second study, from the Netherlands, showed that cancer survivors who exercised had far more energy, were far more active, and were less tired than survivors who did not exercise. Exercising simply gives them more energy.
Also, check this video explaining the benefits of physical activity after cancer treatment:
Who knew exercise had so many health benefits and that it plays such an important role at improving our health?
Getting a moderate amount of aerobic exercise is so important that I would even suggest investing in some form of home cardio equipment. There are plenty of budget options out there and this small investment will pay dividends for your health later on.
I’ve learnt so much researching this subject and I really hope that after reading this you make exercise more important part of your life so that you can lead healthier and happier life for longer. Of course, exercise is just one of the things you can do to stay healthy and it works better together with habits such as healthy and balanced diet and other healthy lifestyle habits.
How active are you at the moment? Will you be increasing your activity levels after reading this?
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