The Body - Benefits of exercise

Helps keep the heart healthy

Your heart is a muscle. In fact it’s one of the most critical muscles in your body because it controls the flow of blood around your system. In itself it’s like a pumping station – the right side bringing in blood from your body and pumping it to your lungs, and the left side bringing in blood from the lungs and pumping it to the rest of your body. Continuous and sustained exercise can help to condition the heart and lungs. When you exercise you breath faster and the heart pumps more blood throughout your body. Your blood provides your body with oxygen and important nutrients, while at the same time carrying harmful waste products out of your body. Regular physical activity can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Particularly with heart disease being the leading cause of death throughout the world (Source: World Health Report 2002) the need for exercise cannot be stressed enough.

Makes you feel good and reduces stress

Want a natural high? Try a little exercise! Whenever you exercise your brain releases a natural chemical called endorphins which make you feel good. The release of these endorphins is the natural method that you’re body uses to regulate feelings of pain and hunger. A widely publicised observation is the supposed “runner’s high”. Here the person who is doing continuous and demanding exercise will eventually reach a threshold that stimulates the release of endorphin production. As endorphins are released into our bloodstream they also help to improve our mood. Have you ever noticed how good you’ve felt after exercising? Well that’s a combination of the endorphins released in your body along with the sense of achievement for doing the exercise. Studies have also shown that those endorphins play an important part in reducing stress and helping us to relax.

Weight loss

Not only does exercise keep your heart healthy and make you feel good, but it also helps keep those extra pounds off. Often those who are overweight have a slower metabolism than those who are leaner. And scientifically it has been proven that those who have lean muscle tone burn fat even more efficiently. Consistent cardiovascular exercise, 3 or 4 times a week, helps to burn fat and convert it into lean muscle tone. The best way to burn fat is to do aerobic exercise like running, jogging and cycling. Anaerobic exercises (like weightlifting) do not focus on burning fat but help to build muscles. But the muscles in turn compliment the aerobic exercises as bigger muscles help to burn more calories.

Stronger immune system

When you exercise your immune systems gets a temporary boost in the production of macrophages. These are the cells that attack bacteria. Your body temperature also rises which helps to fight off germs. Generally moderate exercise is very good for the immune system because it helps to strengthen and stimulate the immune system. For high intensity exercises such as marathon running enough rest and recovery time is required to prevent a negative effect being sustained on the immune system.

Reduces risk of cancer

Many studies support the use of regular exercise in the prevention and treatment of cancer. One such study carried out by the Cancer Research Campaign and Scottish Cancer Foundation, both combined and analysed the results of more than 50 separate studies into bowel cancer. It found that people who exercised regularly were less likely to develop bowel cancer (source: bbc.co.uk “Exercise halves cancer risk”). Bowel cancer is one of the UK’s biggest killers with approximately 17,000 deaths from it each year. Exercise as simple as manual work, hiking and gardening all count as positive measure towards the prevention of cancer.

Reduces blood pressure

Exercise can help to reduce resting blood pressure in people who have hypertension by an average of 10 points. The best exercises include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and rowing. It is said that around 50 million Americans have high blood pressure. Such high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure if left untreated. For those who do have high blood pressure it is wise to consult a doctor about the best of action for exercising.

Increases productivity and energy levels

Your nutrition, sleeping habits and stress levels all affect your energy levels. But exercise is a sure way to help increase energy and stamina and help to make you more alert. As you exercise, you increase your heart rate causing more blood to flow around your body and through your brain. The oxygen from your blood which your brain is now receiving is absorbed by the brain cells making you feel more energetic and mentally alert. Because blood also contains glucose which your brain uses as fuel, exercise increases the glucose levels received by the brain and also enhances the ability of the enzymes in your body to use that fuel.


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