first step is awareness
Our body is the vessel we use to accomplish any number of things in life. We use it either physically by moving body parts or cognitively by thinking or making decisions. We tend to take our body’s ability to do both complex and mundane tasks for granted until we get sick and realize how blessed it is to be healthy. One thing many of us keep hearing is good for our health, yet few ever pay heed to, is physical activity.
Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscle that requires energy expenditure. According to WHO, physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally. That is a staggering number sure to make anyone take notice and be concerned. But hey don’t over think it; achieving a strong and healthy mind in a healthy body is not as difficult as some would make you believe. This article will work you through how to achieve a respectable level of physical fitness without hitting the gym.
Before we get into that, let us get into the loads of benefits you can gain from physical activity. Regular moderate intensity physical activity-such as walking, cycling or participating in sports- has significant benefits for health. For instance it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and depression. Moreover adequate levels of physical activity will decrease the risk of hip or vertebral fracture and help control weight. You want to live a long life, eat healthy and exercise regularly.
Benefits of physical activity
1. Exercise increases energy levels
Exercise improves both the strength and efficiency of your cardiovascular system to get oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. When your cardiovascular system works better everything seems easier and you have more energy to do things you love.
2. Exercise improves muscle strength
Staying active keeps muscles strong and joints flexible, allowing you to move more easily and avoid injury. Strong muscles and ligaments reduce your risk of joint and lower back pain by keeping joints in proper alignment. They also improve coordination and balance.
3. Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight
The more you exercise the more calories you burn. In addition, the more muscle you develop, the higher your metabolic rates becomes. The result? You may lose weight and look better physically which will boost your self esteem.
4. Exercise improves brain function
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain. It also encourages the release of the brain chemicals (hormones) that are responsible for the production of cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and learning. This, in turn, boosts concentration levels and cognitive ability, and helps reduce the risk of cognitive and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
5. Exercise is good for your heart
Exercise reduces LDL cholesterol (the type that blocks your arteries), increases HDL (the good cholesterol) and reduce blood pressure so it lowers the stress on your heart. Added to this, it also strengthens your heart muscle. Combined with a healthy diet, exercise lowers the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
6. Regular exercise lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a systemic disease in which the body’s ability to utilize glucose from the blood is defective. Regular exercise helps to control blood glucose levels which help to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes which a leading cause of foot amputation worldwide. Additionally exercise helps to prevent obesity, which is primary factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.
7. Exercise enhances your immune system
Our bodies have soldiers that defend us against infections. These soldiers are blood cells that require nutrients and oxygen to carry out their functions. Exercise improves your body’s ability to pump the oxygen and nutrients around your body that are required to fuel the cells that fight bacteria and viruses.
8. Exercise may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers
Being fit may mean that the risk of colon cancer, breast cancer and possibly also lung and endometrial cancers are reduced. Certain researches into cancer have suggested that a significant number of cancer deaths are linked to being overweight and sedentary.
9. Active people tend to sleep better
Physical activity makes you more tired so you are more ready to sleep. Good quality sleep helps improve overall wellness and can reduce stress.
10. Exercise improves your mood and gives you an improved sense of well-being
Physical activity stimulates the release of chemicals called endorphins which make you feel better and more relaxed. These in turn improve your mood and lower your stress levels.
Exercise can help you meet people, reduce stress levels, cope with frustration, and give you a sense of achievement, all of which help with depression.
How much should you exercise?
According to WHO guideline, adults aged 18-64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activity. In order to be beneficial for cardio-respiratory health, all activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration. For additional health benefits, adults should increase these minutes steadily to 300 of moderate intensity and 150 of vigorous intensity per week. Muscle strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on two or more days a week.
Over 65 should follow the same pattern but should do more of aerobic activity.
Examples of moderate intensity exercise include brisk walking (100 steps/minute); dancing, swimming, gentle cycling, volley ball, etc. Vigorous intensity exercise as the name implies requires more energy expenditure than moderately intense activity and includes running, power walking at 5 meters per hour (mph), aerobics, martial arts, competitive sports (football, basketball, rugby etc), skipping, rowing, lifting and moving heavy load across several meters, masonry work, etc.
Pregnant women and persons with cardiac events may need to take extra precautions and seek medical advice before striving to achieve recommended levels. Inactive adults or adults with disease limitations will have added health benefits if moving from category of ”no activity” to ”some level” of activity. Adults who do not meet the recommendations for physical activity should aim to increase duration, frequency and finally intensity as a target to achieving them.