Health

HEALTH BENEFITS OF EXERCISE: Why exercise should be something to smile about ?

EVERYONE knows that working out is good for the body but research reveals how it can benefit the mind too.

Health benefits of exercise and physical activity are many. Regular exercise can help reduce your risk from many diseases and health conditions. It can also improve your overall quality of life.

Why do you exercise? A recent survey by simplygym.co.uk revealed that 40 per cent of us exercise to lose weight. 24 per cent to build muscle and 22 per cent to improve fitness. These are all admirable and entirely valid motivations.

But the results also suggest that we see exercise as a means to an end rather than something that can be enjoyed for what it is. A pastime that has the power to lift our mood, boost energy levels, raise self-esteem and generally help us feel better.

The World Health Organization recommends we should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week. Ideally a mix of moderately intense aerobic activity such as cycling or walking the dog and muscle-strengthening activities such as yoga or circuit training.

The key message, however, is that it doesn’t matter what type of exercise you choose as long as you enjoy it.

Here are some health benefits of exercise and reasons to get moving.

It lifts your mood 

Ever heard of a runner’s high? This is the feeling of elation and exhilaration many runners experience when they hit that sweet spot on a long-distance run and feel they could go on for ever. It’s triggered by a surge of feelgood endorphins in the brain that happens when you’re pushing your body hard – but not too hard.

The good news is you don’t have to be a runner to experience this. Even short bursts of cardiovascular exercise will stimulate your brain to produce endorphins as well as dopamine and serotonin – other chemicals associated with pleasure and happiness. Better still, researchers at the University of Vermont have proved that just 20 minutes of exercise can boost your mood for as much as 12 hours afterwards.

It’s time for you 

Exercise doesn’t have to involve sport or the gym. It could be gardening, walking or dancing – anything you love that gets you moving and makes you feel good.

It makes you feel less stressed 

Regular exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol. A 12-month study at the University of Turku showed that people who had taken part in an exercise programme had decreased stress symptoms, increased their physical activity and improved their physical fitness and mental resources published here.

Focusing on your body or your goals as you lap the pool means that other worries are pushed aside.

It’s good fun 

Think like a child. Don’t focus on your looks but on the fun aspects of exercise – the movement and play. Jumping, considered by Nasa to be “the most effective form of exercise devised by man”, is almost impossible to do without smiling. Just try it.

It energises you 

You might think running around the park would deplete your energy levels. The opposite is true – researchers at the University of Georgia found overwhelming evidence that regular exercise plays a significant role in increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue. “People are always looking for the next sports drink or cup of coffee that will give them the extra edge,” says author Tim Puetz. “But it may be that doing physical activity every morning can provide the spark of energy they are looking for.”

It’s social 

While exercise can be an opportunity to be alone and clear your head, it’s also a chance to spend time with family or friends. Group together to hire a trainer, go for a walk with your partner, join your children in a game of rounders or even use your baby (correctly and safely held, of course) as a weight in part of your workout routine.

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It boosts confidence 

Of course if you’re exercising to lose weight and you see results, you’re going to feel better about yourself. But what if you don’t see the improvements you’re after or they take longer to materialise than you’d hoped? A study by the University of Florida found it doesn’t matter – as long as you’re putting in the legwork, you’re going to have a better body image. “People who don’t achieve workout milestones such as losing fat, gaining strength or boosting cardiovascular fitness feel just as good about their bodies as their more athletic counterparts,” says author Heather Hausenblas.

It can help to treat depression 

Given the mood-boosting and stress-busting effects of exercise, it’s perhaps not surprising that it has also been shown to have a positive effect on depression and anxiety, with the NHS recommending it as a treatment option.

A study also found that the more someone exercises, the less likely they are to see depressive symptoms return.

“For each 50-minute increment of exercise, there was an accompanying 50 per cent reduction in relapse risk,” says James.

“These studies indicate that a modest exercise programme is an effective and robust treatment for patients with major depression.”

It Helps You Sleep 

Provided you’re not doing star jumps just before you leap into bed, exercising will help you fall asleep. To sleep well we need our body temperature to drop. Exercising at the right time of day helps it to fall lower than it would otherwise. Experts recommend 20 minutes’ exercise three to six hours before bedtime.

Source: express.co.uk , alternativecure.net

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