Regular exercise, indeed, any type of physical activity, can have immense benefits to our health. Regular physical activity not only helps to prevent heart disease, but can also help to prevent osteoperosis and diabetes, can improve our energy levels and intensify a sense of psychological wellbeing.
Here we cover some physical activity health benefits on the human body:
Physical Activity Health Benefits on The bones and Joints
The density of bones determines how strong they are – low density bones are brittle and more likely to fracture on impact. Regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or running, increases bone density. Strength-training also has a positive effect on bone density, because muscle pulls on bone.
The denser a woman’s bones in her thirties, the less porous they will be after the menopause. Any weight-bearing exercise causes bones to become denser and stronger. Even post-menopausal women can delay the decline in bone density by exercising.
Weight-bearing exercise is crucially important for women because, after the menopause, levels of the hormone oestrogen fall dramatically (oestrogen helps maintain bone health). If a post-menopausal woman has taken little or no weight-bearing exercise throughout her life, further loss of bone density caused by low oestrogen levels can have a very damaging effect.
Another benefit of exercise is that when muscles become bigger and stronger, they provide more protection for bones. The stronger tendons and ligaments that are attached to the muscles protect the joints and reduce the risk of accidental damage. Regular stretching maintains the range of movement of the joints. Low impact exercise, such as, aqua-aerobics and walking, which puts very little stress on the joints, helps to prevent or alleviate arthritis.
Physical Activity Health Benefits on The Bowels
Exercise speeds up the time taken for food to pass through the digestive system, meaning that people who exercise experience frequent, healthy bowel movements and are less likely to suffer from constipation.
Physical Activity Health Benefits on The Endocrine System
The body system responsible for secreting hormones is known as the endocrine system. Hormones are chemical messengers that stimulate activity in different areas of the body. They are vital for the healthy functioning of the entire body. The endocrine system responds to regular exercise by in-creasing its sensitivity to certain hormones.
The benefit of exercise on the endocrine system relates to insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas. Its role is to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood and ensure that various tissues have the correct level of glucose for healthy functioning. The pancreas also balances insulin produced in excess of the body’s needs.
People who are aerobically fit secrete less insulin but still effectively regulate blood sugar. This is why exercise can be helpful in managing juvenile-onset diabetes, a condition in which insulin fails to be produced or is not produced in sufficient quantities. Diet, exercise andcan also be effective in controlling the high glucose levels associated with adult-onset diabetes. This may mean that sufferers do not have to depend on insulin injections.
Physical Activity Health Benefits on The Brain
Research into the effects of exercise on ageing suggests that training ‘pumps up’ the brain as well as the body, making it more efficient and counteracting the loss of acuity that comes with age. This is usually explained by the improved flow of freshly oxygenated blood to the brain.
In addition to this, any form of exercise that demands agility, coordination and concentration, such as a martial art or racket sport, is particularly good at stimulating the brain. Older people who take regular exercise are far less likely to lose their memory and cognitive functioning than people who are sedentary.
Physical Activity Health Benefits on The mind and Emotions
There has been much research into the psychological benefits of regular exercise. Studies show that if you are depressed and start to exercise, you will feel less depressed than if you do not exercise. In fact, regular exercisers feel less tension, fatigue, aggression and depression, and experience more vigour and feelings of well-being.
Since scientists first showed that intense bouts of aerobic exercise could lift anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and stress, various studies have found that people who take aerobic exercise experience a leap in vitality that lasts up to an hour after a workout. They also experience an all-round feeling of energy and alertness that lasts for much longer.
Exercisers are more likely to enjoy their body and believe that it is healthy; they are more physically and emotionally relaxed, they perform better at work and they are more assertive in interpersonal relationships; they worry less and they have fewer headaches, stomach aches, difficulties in concentration and sleep problems. Muscle training (anaerobic exercise) has also been shown to have an uplifting effect.
The anti-depressant effect of exercise is usually explained by the rise in blood levels of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers that make people feel good). The endorphin theory explains the euphoric state of ‘exerciser’s high’. Regular exercisers who stop exercising may become miserable and anxious. This is thought to be because they are suffering from withdrawal symptoms -they are addicted to their own endorphins. The tranquillizing effect of exercise is usually explained by the fact that it speeds up the body’s excretion of toxic by-products of stress. Two stress hormones – adrenalin and noradrenalin – are secreted in the urine and further indicators of a reduction in anxiety can be measured by monitoring falls in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and skin tension.
But psychology cannot be separated from physiology. Exercise often makes people feel good because of its profound and long-term effects on health, physicaland appearance. People who take regular exercise feel physically better, they have more energy, stamina and grace, they are slimmer, toned and glowing and, as a result of all these factors, they have higher self-esteem.
The act of taking exercise also distracts people from their daily concerns and gives them a chance to forget their problems while they concentrate on their movements and breathing. It is often done outdoors in pleasant surroundings, so people take in fresh air.
Alternatively, they may enjoy the company of friends in the social setting of a gym. Exercisers feel a sense of achievement about their sporting goals or their increasing levels of fitness. They experience a sense of positive control over their bodies. If you are new to exercise, remember that it takes several weeks before you feel invigorated after exercise. The early sensations are more likely to be fatigue, or occasionally discomfort, after expending more energy than usual. The heightened energy and good mood come later.