Health Benefits of Exercise


Physical exercise is important for maintaining physical fitness & can contribute positively to maintaining a healthy weight, building & maintaining healthy bone density, muscle strength & joint mobility.

Promoting physiological well-being, reducing surgical risks and strengthening the immune system.

Frequent and regular aerobic exercise has been shown to help prevent or treat serious and life-threatening chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, insomnia, and depression. Studies have shown that exercising in middle age leads to better physical ability later in life, so it's never too late to start.

Cancer and lack of physical activity
According to the World Health Organisation, lack of physical activity contributes to approximately 17% of heart disease and diabetes and 12% of falls in the elderly. And according to the study in The Lancet, 10% of all gallbladder, breast cancer, kidney, liver, and colon cancers are attributed to excess weight, and a whopping 41 percent of uterine cancers are tied to obesity. I believe in the future, obesity will found to be the cause of many more cancers than currently determined as obesity causes inflammation which damges cells, resulting in genetic mutation and cancer formation.

The National Cancer Institute in the US estimates that obesity contributes to 34,000 new cases of cancer in men and 50,000 in women each year. But if every adult reduced their BMI by 1 percent, a loss of only a 1kg, about 100,000 new cases of cancer could be avoided. This in an incredible empowering statistic! Imagine if there was a drug that could reduce cancer rates by 100,000? But we don't need a drug. We just need to keep the body moving and in many cases lose weight.

Benefits of exercise

Exercise reduces the risk of diabetes
Exercise reduces levels of cortisol which causes many health problems. Cortisol raises blood sugar and contributes to hyperglycaemia and hyperinsulinaemia. Exercise reverses insulin resistance by increasing GLT4 receptors (insulin receptors) on the cell surface to improve insulin sensitivity and therefore lower blood glucose.

Exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
The beneficial effect of exercise on the cardiovascular system is well documented. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise work to increase the mechanical efficiency of the heart by increasing cardiac volume (aerobic exercise), or myocardial thickness (strength training). There is a direct relation between physical inactivity and cardiovascular mortality, and physical inactivity is an independent risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease.

Exercise benefits the immune system
Epidemiological evidence suggests that moderate exercise has a beneficial effect on the human immune system. Immune cell functions are impaired following acute sessions of prolonged, high-intensity exercise, and some studies have found that athletes are at a higher risk for infections.

Exercise reduces inflammatory biomarkers including C-reactive protein, IL-6 & TNF-alpha
Biomarkers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, IL-6 and Tumour necrosis factor alpha, which are associated with chronic diseases, are reduced in active individuals relative to sedentary individuals, and the positive effects of exercise may be due to its anti-inflammatory effects.

Exercise improves brain function
Some studies have shown that vigorous exercise executed by healthy individuals can increase opioid peptides (a.k.a. endorphins, naturally occurring opioids that in conjunction with other neurotransmitters are responsible for exercise-induced euphoria and have been shown to be addictive), increase testosterone and growth hormone.

A 2008 review of cognitive enrichment therapies (strategies to slow or reverse cognitive decline) concluded that "physical activity, and aerobic exercise in particular, enhances older adults' cognitive function".

In addition, physical activity has been shown to be neuroprotective in many neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases, reducing the risk of developing dementia. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that frequent exercise may reverse alcohol-induced brain damage.

Why exercise benefits the brain

  • increases the blood and oxygen flow to the brain
  • increases growth factors that help create new nerve cells and promote synaptic plasticity
  • increases chemicals in the brain that help cognition, such as dopamine, glutamate, noradrenalin and serotonin

Exercise alleviates depression
A number of factors may contribute to depression including being overweight, low self esteem, stress, and anxiety. Endorphins act as a natural pain reliever and antidepressant in the body. Endorphins have long been regarded as responsible for what is known as "runner's high", a euphoric feeling a person receives from intense physical exertion. When a person exercises, levels of both circulating serotonin and endorphins are increased. These levels are known to stay elevated even several days after exercise is discontinued, possibly contributing to improvement in mood, increased self-esteem, and weight management.

Exercise improves sleep
A 2010 review of published scientific research suggests that exercise improves sleep for most people and helps sleep disorders such as insomnia.

How much exercise is enough?
Luckily though we don't have to don lycra and sign up for a year at the gym. In fact, for normal weight people, the level of exercise required for significant health benefits is porbably less than you think. So how much exercise do we really need? Only thirty minutes, five days a week is the minimum recommended. It needs to be at least moderate intensity - where you get a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. Brisk walking is perfect. But you can also mow the lawn, rake up the leaves or do vigorous housework, in fact pretty much anything that gets major muscles moving and gives your heart rate a boost. If you think sex is going to work off the calories, think again, the average romp is apparently a mere 6 minutes and only works off a small meringue.

The good news is, if we can manage 30 minutes a day, we cut our odds of developing heart disease by a whopping 40 per cent! This is also enough to help ward off diabetes, stroke, and mental illness. But if you happen to be overweight, don't think that you'll lose weight by exercising with 30 minutes a day. For that, you need at least 60 minutes or more. Please, leave the car and take the bike. Exercise isn't easy but the rewards are plenty and remember, the golden rules of weight loss are; number 1 you must go hungry, number 2 you must sweat and number 3 try my Weight Loss Tonic

For further details on this topic, to lecture for your group or institution on this subject. or to arrange an online appointment contact Carina This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.Cert IV TAE. 

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