Feared by many, loved by few, exercise is a topic that can divide the masses. One thing is for certain, no matter who you are and what your ability level is, you should be performing regular physical activity and exercise.
Whether your fitness goals be to live longer, to look better, or any other goals, physical activity needs to be part of the plan. Not only can it improve your endurance and ability to complete tasks, it can improve health in many of the body systems.
Exercise has been found to improve brain function. It has been reported in multiple studies that a lifestyle involving regular physical activity led to improvements in mental health, memory, and general cognitive function. While there are recommendations in terms of intensity frequency and type of exercise as it relates to reducing relative risk of certain diseases such as hypertension, there is no absolute guidance on the optimal amount of exercise necessary to achieve the positive effects correlated with brain health. But either way, just increasing your movement in any capacity is going to have a beneficial impact on brain health.
In an unfortunately misguided movement, health care practitioners have long advised patients that if they have been diagnosed with arthritis (osteoarthritis for our purposes here) that they should limit exercise and physical activity, as it could make the pain and the arthritis itself worse. Numerous studies, however, have shown that it is not the case that exercise and physical activity worsen joint health. In fact, the findings are that exercise and physical activity can in fact have a beneficial effect on joints.
Heart and Lung Health
Heart and lung health is one of the more intuitive effects of exercise. You need only to climb up a set of stairs to feel the effects on the cardiorespiratory system, such as your breathing getting more difficult or your heart beating faster. But the benefits are not always fully appreciated. Regular physical activity and exercise can help to lower blood pressure, and has a preventative and mitigating effect on other heart and lung issues. For example, when compared to a sedentary individual, a person who performs regular physical activity and exercise has a lower chance of ever developing heart disease, and if he or she does, it tends to occur later in life and less severe than would generally occur in the sedentary individual.
Apart from the body systems mentioned above, many other systems benefit from regular exercise. There are positive effects on the renal (kidney) system, the urinary system, the digestive system, and another more obvious one: the muscular system. All of these pieces that make up the human body are involved and benefit from consistent exercise.
How Much Is Enough?
A common question when it comes to exercise is about volume. How much is enough? Well, it depends on the goal. If you want to be a competitive athlete, the recommendation is going to be quite different from those that apply to someone who just wants to lower their risk of heart disease. For general health, there are various guidelines available from different sources, however, a good starting point is to aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity in a week. If that’s too much, do a little bit less. If that doesn’t feel like enough, do a little bit more. Any movement is beneficial.
The main takeaway from this post should be this: if you aren’t walking or moving for more than a few minutes a day, it would be a good idea to move more. Not only will it benefit your health in a multitude of ways, you’ll feel better overall. So, once you’re done reading this, get up and go for a 20 minute walk. You deserve to be healthy!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post or anywhere on richardsonpt.com is no substitute for an evaluation by a licensed healthcare provider. Always consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise or diet plan.