What are the benefits of exercise? How physical fitness affects us

August 20, 2019

What are the benefits of exercise?

We’re all taught from an early age that any healthy lifestyle should include regular exercise. More specifically, the NHS recommends that adults aim for 150 minutes of physical activity a week, which is only around 22 minutes per day. However, bear in mind that consistency is key. Doing 150 minutes of exercise one day and nothing for the remaining week isn’t the best for your health - but it’s better than doing nothing at all!

Short and long term effects of exercise

When we exercise, the body goes through many changes and functions. While training in the short term can often feel like you’re fatigued, and even sometimes nauseous, these are healthy signs that we’re working hard. You may not feel the effect of exercising straight away, but by being consistent, you’ll benefit from all of the great things our body does while being physically active. Here are some of the short and long term effects of exercising:

Exercise helps to fight depression and anxiety

When you exercise, the brain releases endorphins which contribute towards a positive feeling of mental wellbeing. Not only this, but exercise can be a great distraction. Although distracting yourself by exercising may not be a medical solution, the time spent doing physical activity can give you some clear-thinking time away from anxious or depressive feelings. Self-image can also play a part in anxious thoughts and exercise is a fantastic way to boost body-confidence.

It can improve your mental acuity

Mental acuity, which is essentially how sharp and healthy our minds are, is an important trait for almost everything that we do. Whether it’s the 5-a-side football tournament you take part in on Wednesday nights, or your daily job, mental strength is key for basic functions. You may see an improvement in your short and long term memory, find it easier to focus and concentrate and picking up new skills may become much easier.

Makes you feel energised!

It might sound contradictory, but by exercising, you’ll find that you have more energy on a daily basis. Of course, you should expect to feel pretty tired after physical activity, but that’s only short term. One of the main benefits of exercising is that you’re increasing the blood flow around your body. In short, your blood will absorb more oxygen resulting in you feeling more energetic.

Long Term Effects Of Physical Activity

Improve your quality of life

Regular physical exercise can help towards reducing the likelihood of developing major illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. There are over 360,000 new cancer cases in the UK every year, 4million people living with type 2 diabetes and 7.4 million people living with heart disease. 

Unfortunately, such illnesses can have a severe impact on your quality of life, not just during treatment, but through the long term damage they can leave on your body. For example, after experiencing heart disease, you may no longer be able to exercise, and you could miss out on activities that you once enjoyed.

Maintain a healthy weight

Alongside smoking, obesity is one of the biggest causes of cancer, and Cancer Research UK estimates that 22,800 cases of cancer could be avoided every year if these people had maintained a healthy weight. Regular physical activity will help you to stay in shape, but make sure you couple this with a healthy diet.

Decreased blood pressure

Blood pressure refers to how hard our heart has to work in order to pump blood around the body. High blood pressure means that our heart has to work harder and is, therefore, more prone to related illnesses.

In short, blood pressure is all about how hard our heart has to work to pump blood around the body. High blood pressure means that our heart has to work harder, and is more at risk of related illnesses. Physical activity helps keep our hearts healthy and improves its strength in the long run. We recommend that you get this checked up, especially if you don’t exercise, smoke regularly and are overweight.

“Blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke”

Increased libido

Because sexual functions are heavily tied with blood circulation, it’s no surprise that physical activity has a knock-on effect on our libido. There are also indirect effects of exercising that help; you may feel more confident and experience less stress, which are both important factors in sexual drive.

Better sleep

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how exercise improves our sleep, research suggests that aerobic activity helps our brain to rejuvenate. This is down to exercise increasing the amount of ‘deep sleep’ we receive during our sleep cycle. Exercise more, sleep better and feel more switched-on the next day!

Live for longer!

Aside from the points we’ve raised about reducing the chance of developing an illness; exercise also does a lot more behind the scenes. You’ll burn fat, lower cholesterol and keep your organs and bones working smoothly into your later life. The bottom line is that those who exercise, on average, have a longer life expectancy.

“Someone who is overweight and exercises for 150 minutes a week will live, on average, 3.9 years more than those who do not exercise”

Short Term Effects Of Exercise

How this will affect you in real-life situations

The biology behind exercise is important to understand, but for many people, it can be difficult to relate to. Understanding how physical activity can benefit you in day-to-day life may be the factor that motivates you to get started. Here are a few examples to consider:

As you age

While you may feel like you’re getting away with not exercising in your early life, this can have an adverse effect on you as you age. Not only will you be more prone to serious illnesses, but it will become more and more difficult for you to begin exercising - but not impossible! In any scenario, the earlier you begin exercising, the happier the older you will be.

Your working life

We’ve all had those mornings where we’re really not in the mood to get up and sink our teeth into the working day. We’re not claiming that exercise will remove this feeling (we’re all human after all), but you’ll feel mentally stronger, find it easier to concentrate and wake up every day more refreshed.

Your mental health

We’ve seen a big focus on mental health recently, and there’s a good reason for it. The World Health Organisation has reported that 1 in 4 people will experience adverse mental health in their lifetime. Being physically fit is great for your body, but exercise is also great for a healthy mind. Suffering from anxiety, depression or other mental health issues may affect you daily, weekly or even on and off throughout the year. But when these problems arise, they can make simple activities such as getting out of bed difficult.

What Are The Benefits Of Exercise

Here are some easy ways to get started with exercising

  1. Find an activity or exercise that you enjoy doing the most, and stick with it. Walking, cycling or swimming are extremely beneficial to your health, and relatively easy to get started with.
  2. Set yourself realistic targets. It can be disheartening if you’re expecting extreme results and dangerous if you push your body trying to reach them. Take it one step at a time; even if the scales don’t represent what you feel you deserve, your body will be much healthier on the inside.
  3. Substitute part of your routine with exercise. Walk to the shop, cycle to work, spend 15 minutes on your lunch break taking a stroll; it all helps. If your place has a gym you can train at - even better!
  4. If you’re at an office for long parts of the days and you’re really struggling, there are desk exercises that you can utilise.

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