Benefits of Exercise
Health Benefits of Exercise
Cardiovascular exercise forces the heart to work harder in order to supply working muscles with adequate blood and oxygen. Over time, this strengthens the heart muscle. The resting heart rate slows down and the max heart rate increases, which allows the heart to work less during regular activity and harder when necessary. This allows us to be more active during the day without feeling fatigued, opening up our lives to more important things like playing with children, climbing a mountain, or even getting up and down the stairs a bit easier.
Many people find that diets are very hard to stick to, so exercise is a great tool for managing weight by increasing the number of calories used throughout the day. Exercise can help manage weight by decreasing body fat, increasing muscle mass, and increasing RMR 9resting metabolic rate). Studies have shown that even a small change in weight (less than 10%) can have a large impact on overall health.
Any type of weight-bearing exercise (walking, jogging, biking, strength training) place stress on the skeletal system. Bones adapt to that stress by increasing their production of osteoblasts, which are responsible for bone remodeling and growth. Weight-bearing exercise can be a great way to delay and possibly improve bone loss (osteoporosis) that is seen in many individuals as they age.
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is the good cholesterol that helps to remove LDL (low-density lipoprotein), which is the bad cholesterol, from the bloodstream as waste. By doing cardiovascular exercise, we can increase the amount of circulating HDL, which can help to improve the blood lipid profile and work to decrease LDL levels, which are mostly determined from genetics and food choices.
High blood pressure can be a sign of stress, cardiovascular disease or other health issues. Regular physical activity helps to ward off high blood pressure by maintaining clean arteries, a strong heart and circulatory function. Exercise also reduces stress, which helps decrease blood pressure as well.
According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2013 Sleep in America poll, more than three-fourths of exercisers (76 to 83 percent) say their sleep quality was very good or fairly good in the past two weeks, compared to only 56 percent of non-exercisers. This shows the correlation between exercise and sleep quality.
Exercise is physical stress applied to the body, and there are two types of exercise stress that play a role in reducing the effects of aging: mechanical stress (resistance training) and metabolic stress (cardio). High-intensity exercise can provide the mechanical or metabolic stress necessary to stimulate production of naturally occurring anabolic steroids, which promote muscle protein synthesis and increase lean muscle mass, both of which help mitigate the effects of the aging process. Exercise floods the brain with BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a substance that boosts brain cell growth and strengthens cell-to-cell connections, which works to increase cognitive function.
Exercise helps to lower blood pressure, which can be a marker of high stress. Exercise releases serotonin and dopamine, the 'feel good' neurotransmitters, which make you feel happier, more relaxed and less stressed.
The increase in BDNF in the brain due to exercise makes brain cells stronger, healthier, better-connected and larger, which leads to increases learning capacity. And, exercise balances neurotransmitters and other chemicals in the brain. The substances influence brain activity related to mood, attention, learning, motivation and arousal. That's why you're likely to feel calmer, more alert and more focused after exercise.
Published by the American Council on Exercise (acefitness.org)
The Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health
Here are six ways exercise can help improve your overall mental health and outlook:
1. Exercise elevates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a neurotransmitter that can stimulate production of new brain cells. Both cardiorespiratory and strength training can help elevate levels of BDNF, which means that these forms of exercise not only help your muscles become stronger, they can boost your brain power, too.
2. Performing different types of physical activity or learning how to do a new type of exercise can change how your brain is wired, which can help to improve your overall cognition and mental acuity. When you first start exercising and are learning how to perform new movement patterns, your brain and nervous system are figuring out the most effective way to communicate to perform the specific activity. As you become better at an activity, you are boosting the ability of your brain to connect the dots and activate the right muscles to help you perform the necessary movements. This helps improve how your brain functions, which has a direct result on your overall mental health. If you’ve been thinking about trying a new type of exercise such as yoga, Pilates or kettlebell training, it’s cool to know that it may help you get smarter as well as fitter.
3. Exercise can help boost your self-esteem, which has a direct effect on your mental health. Learning how to nail that yoga pose, finally doing a pull-up with your own bodyweight or lifting a certain amount of weight can leave you with the feeling that you can achieve specific tasks that you set out to accomplish, which is the best way to boost self-esteem.
4. How awesome do you feel after a good night’s sleep? Sleep is when your body repairs itself after the challenges of the day and is an important component of good mental health. A good night’s sleep is also critical for your brain to recharge and refresh, and regular exercise can enhance your quality of sleep, which can leave you feeling great all day long.
5. In this non-stop world where you’re constantly being texted, emailed, tweeted and generally pulled in all directions, having the opportunity to take time out of your day to focus on you and your favorite activity can definitely help improve mental health. Time spent exercising is an opportunity to unplug from other people and listen to your favorite music or catch up on your favorite hobby via a podcast. This, in turn, can help you change how you feel and improve your overall outlook.
6. Taking group fitness classes or simply being at a gym surrounded by other people working toward improving their health can help you connect with others, which is an important component of good mental health. If you’re new to an area or going through a major life change such as a break-up, your workout time can be the best opportunity for meeting new people and making new friends. Many fitness studios and group classes become mini-communities and are an excellent way to improve your real-life social network, which can have an immediate impact on your mental health.
Recent research strongly suggests that improved mental health is an important and often-overlooked outcome of regular exercise. It’s also important to note that you don’t need to pay for an expensive health membership or fitness classes to receive the mental health benefits of exercise. Check out this recent blog by the American Council on Exercise, which can help you identify ways to be more physically active. If you’ve been looking for a little extra motivation to get moving, know that exercise can help you feel better and improve your overall outlook on life.
Published by the American Council on Exercise (acefitness.org)