It’s hard to know where to start when talking about the benefits of regular exercise, there are so many. Perhaps that is the most important point – by taking your first steps on an exercise routine, you can feel assured the cost-effectiveness and health benefits are proven, in some cases well beyond the benefits of medication or supplements.
What happens when you exercise?
Well of course it all starts with an idea – I can jog around the footy oval. The idea becomes a coordinated outburst from the motor cortex of your brain putting your muscles into action. Glucose gets burnt, heat is generated within the muscles. Automatically your body redirects more blood to those muscles to replenish the fuel that is burnt, and take away the waste products – mainly carbon dioxide. As you continue on around the oval, your heart rate increases, not only do your muscles need more blood, but also your brain because that is active as well, and your skin gets more blood too to get rid of all the excess heat that is being generated. If you run long and hard enough then some hormonal changes start to happen – endorphins, nature’s “happy hormones” are released from your brain to help keep you going around the track!
Exercise affects every part of your body in some way – regular exercise has lasting benefits. Consider the metabolic benefits, reduced risk of diabetes, improved cholesterol profile and weight loss – all important for good health.
Consider also the mental health benefits – it improves serotonin levels which helps regulate mood and leaves you feeling more relaxed.
Keep up with your exercise routine over a few months and you will see the benefits of cardiovascular adaptation. Your heart and lungs, having been stress tested regularly, become more efficient for the day to day activities – shopping, climbing stairs, doing the vacuuming all becomes that little bit easier. Blood pressure improves as all the blood vessels in your body become more adapted to exercise.
Exercise can even help you sleep – getting to sleep, staying asleep and waking up feeling refreshed.
For those concerned about immune function – exercise is a great way to give your immune system a boost – less coughs and colds and faster recovery. Perhaps it is through the immune effect that the risk of some cancers is reduced as well.
I haven’t yet mentioned the obvious benefits of increased muscle strength, coordination and balance, all important particularly in older age for preventing falls and other accidents.
As we have just marvelled at the feats of so many elite athletes at the Olympic Games, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all exercise is for achieving fitness or performance goals. Just doing it – is an awesome aim in itself. Try to be active for at least half an hour most days of the week. The more you do the greater the benefits, but any exercise is better than none. Encourage your friends and family to join you – because exercise should also be fun!