Health, Wellness and Exercise
Most people don’t need to see the hard science to know, intrinsically, that exercise is good for your health. In fact, after a good aerobic workout, endorphins flood the brain and leave you with a calm, positive, afterglow feeling that might last upwards of an entire day. But good feelings aside, there are a ton of whole-body benefits to encourage you to keep up with your exercise routine.
Though many people might view exercise as a vehicle for weight loss, exercise is actually not especially useful for losing weight--or keeping it off indefinitely. In order to shed any weight from exercise, it has to be high intensity and performed anywhere between 225 to a whopping 420 minutes a week according to the American College of Sports Medicine. For most people, a regimen like this is impossible to maintain. Even with 7 hours of high intensity aerobic exercise a week, weight loss rates aren’t especially impressive. Right now, the only clinically significant method to losing weight appears to be heavy caloric restriction. Certainly, exercise is still recommended for people who are overweight or obese. Everyone is able to garner cardiovascular benefits from regular exercise, even though it is not recommended as a means of weight loss.
But just because it might not help you lose weight doesn’t mean that exercise doesn’t have huge benefits for the body, especially with regards to long term wellness and disease prevention. Studies have shown that a regular exercise routine can decrease instances of early mortality, reduce the chance of developing coronary heart disease and some types of cancer, and help to stave off mental health concerns like anxiety and depression.
Because regular exercise trains the heart muscle to work more efficiently, over time the rate of developing cardiovascular diseases is drastically reduced. Even systolic and diastolic arterial blood pressure levels can drop with continual exercise, bringing hypertension patients down a clinically significant 10/8 mm Hg on average.
Routine aerobic exercise has also been shown in laboratory studies to increase insulin sensitivity and improve glucose tolerance in patients with and without non-insulin dependent diabetes, or type 2 diabetes. In addition to medical regimens, exercise can be a valuable tool in balancing diabetes and other issues related to metabolism.
When it comes to mental health, exercise also seems to play a significant role in mood regulation. While it won’t be able to outpace major depression and severe anxiety disorders, exercise has been shown to be beneficial for patients suffering from mild to moderate depression. Because of the release of endorphins after a difficult workout, the natural high from an exercise routine can help to lift the mood and promote psychological well-being not only in the short term, but also over time. With the help of psychiatric medication, exercise can help to create a well-rounded approach to mental illness management.
In addition to aerobic exercise, weight-bearing exercises also contribute to tuning and maintenance of the body. Lifting weights and keeping muscles fit can prevent osteoporosis in old age because it trains the musculoskeletal system to accommodate load-bearing and helps to maintain the mineral content and overall density of the bones. Later in life, denser bones will prevent both fracturing and debilitating injury from falls.
But the benefits of exercise don’t end there!
Regular exercise throughout life can lead to ease of living when older. Keeping active can therapeutically reduce the pain from rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic pain conditions common in older populations. By enhancing overall muscle function, building stamina, and keeping the heart energized, the rate of chronic disease in these older, active populations drops by a staggering percentage.
The best part is that regular exercise doesn’t have to be unobtainable. It might sound like a commitment that is difficult to work into a busy work-life schedule, but it doesn’t have to be. The Harvard Medical School states that 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity like brisk walking is all you need to benefit your cardiovascular system--that’s less than thirty minutes a day! And every little bit counts. Taking the initiative to walk to the local store rather than drive, or hike up the stairs rather than wait for the elevator both contribute in small ways to physical activity over the course of a day. So grab your headphones, put on your favorite playlist, and get active! You’ll thank yourself in the long run.
Benefits of Exercise in Health and Disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2540212/pdf/bmj00440-0047.pdf
Exercise and Mental Health: https://bit.ly/2scQwsX
The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3925973/
Exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation for coronary heart disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4229995/
Evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in chronic disease: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2006.00520.x