Regular exercise of any type can improve long-term overall health and physical, boost energy levels, promote a sense of psychological well-being and reduce the adverse effects of stress. There is even some evidence that regular exercise can prolong life. Conversely, a lack of exercise can entail long-term risks; thousands of people die every year from illnesses linked to a sedentary lifestyle.
Regular exercise helps to prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis and diabetes. Aerobic exercise-any kind of continuous rhythmic activity that causes a rise in heart and breathing rate, such as brisk walking, jogging,and aerobics – improves cardiovascular fitness, aids and makes a person feel more energetic. Anaerobic exercise, such as floor exercises and using fixed resistance machines in a gym, improves muscular fitness, which gives the body greater strength and definition. Flexibility exercise promotes joint mobility, good posture and freedom of movement.
There are many different types of exercise, including those that are part of Western exercise disciplines, such as aerobics and , and those that are part of Eastern exercise disciplines, such as Yoga and Qigong.
The underlying philosophies behind Eastern and Western exercise disciplines differ fundamentally. Most Western exercise disciplines focus purely on physical aspects such as improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness. However, Eastern exercise disciplines focus on more than just physical exercise – unity of body and mind are central.
The individual aims to achieve and maintain personal harmony and works towards heightening the flow of energy – sometimes known as Qi – through the body. Self-awareness, concentration, posture and controlled breathing areparts of many Eastern disciplines and there are strong links between physical control of the body and the emergence of spiritual awareness.
Practising martial arts such as Karate and some styles of Kung Fu, which are centred around the intuitive release of energy for force, can also improve physical fitness. The softer martial arts, such as Tai Chi and Qigong, focus on achieving inner balance, but also bring significant physical benefits. Research has shown that the practice of daily meditation and Tai Chi can result in positive physical changes in the body.
Exercise and Health
Regular exercise is fundamental to promoting health. The health benefits of regular exercise are endless. Exercise has a profoundly beneficial effect on all body systems – not just the heart and muscles, but also less obvious areas, such as the bones, bowels and brain. Exercise also enhances emotional well-being, prevents weight gain and obesity, and decreases the risk of degenerative diseases, such as osteoporosis and heart disease, in later life.
The human body was designed for movement rather than inactivity. Physiologists now accept that what used to be viewed as the inevitable outward decline of the ageing body is largely due to the fact that most people stop using their bodies as they get older and so they simply seize up. More than 40 per cent of men and over 80 per cent of women in their mid-forties spend most of their time sitting down. Keeping fit by taking regular exercise confers enormous benefits on the body and can prevent the numerous health problems associated with inactivity.