Exercise – some love it, some loath it, and to some it’s a necessary task. But exactly how does exercise make us healthy – not just from a physical perspective, but mentally and emotionally too?
Research suggests that many adults spend more than seven hours a day sitting down either at work, on transport, or in their leisure time. But with exercise being free (if we choose) and available to us all, how we can get started and, more importantly, why do our bodies love it so much? Exercising…
- Reduces Likelihood of Major Illnesses
Yes, we all know that exercising is good for our bodies from a physical standpoint. But the statistics are still quite eye-opening, and a strong enough reason to get off the couch or get away from our desks. It can reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer by up to 50%! And, it can lower the risk of premature death by up to 30%. (1)
- Improves our Bone and Muscle Strength
Being physically active (and this can be as simple as walking) can improve our bone and muscle strength, and as a result, reduces the risk of falls and fractures, protects against osteoarthritis, as well as acts as a pain relief for musculoskeletal disorders.
- Makes us Feel Happy
Exercising has been shown to increase concentrations of the chemical norepinephrine in the body – which moderates the brain’s response to stress. So if you’re in need of a little ‘pick me up’, why not go outside and take a little stroll?
- Prevents Dementia
All forms of physical exercise boost the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degradation of the hippocampus. In other words, it nurtures the vital part of the brain which is used for memory and learning. In fact, researchers (2) have found that walking for just 20 minutes a day boosts memory and improves overall brain function.
- Provides a Better Night’s Sleep
Exercising can make us physically worn-out in the short-term, but you’ll benefit from a much deeper night’s sleep – and feel well-rested so that you’re alert and raring to go the next morning!
- Helps us Become More Focused
A study by the University of Bristol (3) found that employees who exercised before work or at lunchtime were more motivated and were able to deal with stress more effectively. It’s also been shown to increase our attention span – so if you’ve got a big day ahead of you, exercising beforehand (in addition to getting a restful night’s sleep as mentioned above) may help you get your day off to the very best start.
- Helps Us Lose Weight
We hear lots of talk in the news about the growing problem of being overweight, but unfortunately, it’s not just about body image and fitting into that favourite pair of jeans that’s the reason we should think about losing the extra pounds. There are links between the carrying of excess weight and the onset of type 2 diabetes, development of heart conditions and other serious illnesses, not to mention increased pressures on our joints and bones. Exercising pumps more oxygen into our blood, with our hearts in particular one of the best recipients.
These are just a few of the benefits that exercise can bring to our health – emotionally, physically and mentally. Whether you’re currently sedentary and want to get more active, or you currently indulge in regular exercise but want to improve your fitness level, there’s no time like the present to start making a positive difference!
We also know that while this all sounds great, our lives are very busy and often see us pulled in many different directions – whether it’s work, children, family, or emergencies. And, it isn’t usually at the top of our list of priorities either, so it’s no wonder that many of us struggle to fit it in amongst our other commitments. So what simple things can we do to sneak a little more exercise into our days?
- Do some sit-ups, a plank, or tricep dips on the sofa while the adverts are on the TV
- At work, stand up every hour and walk around the office (and see colleagues face-to-face!)
- Encourage ‘walking meetings’ at work
- Walk up and down the stairs 10 times – just because!
- Park the car further away than you normally would
- Whilst cooking or waiting for the microwave to ping, do some jumping jacks, lunges, or jog on the spot
- While the kettle is boiling, why not add some squats?
- Add a stability ball to your desk chair (it’ll strengthen your core muscles)
- Take calls standing up – it can even help you sound more enthusiastic, apparently!
Ps. We’ve also developed a guide focused on the benefits of walking – if you fancy a FREE copy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- NHS Live Well | https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/whybeactive.aspx
- Journal of Alzheimer’s disease
- Bristol Study | http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2008/6063.html