What you need to know
- We are the sporting capital of the world, yet also one of the most overweight countries in history. Our childhood memories were filled with physical activity. Yet as we age, we often lose our connection with exercise and motivation to stay active.
- Exercise is undeniably beneficial – we hope that revisiting these 3 benefits of exercise will encourage you to make exercise apart of your routine.
- Exercise is good for your heart, bones & muscles. It helps strengthen these tissues, leading to increases in muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance and bone health.
- Exercise helps you manage your bodyweight via improvements in metabolism. More specifically, exercise helps you improve your body composition via increased lean muscle and decreased excessive body fat.
- Exercise significantly improves your mental health, lowering rates of anxiety and depression via increases in endorphins.
If you grew up in Australia and your childhood was anything like mine, childhood was an outdoor affair. Closely accompanied with a ball in hand, weekends at the footy (AFL, NRL or even Soccer – no judgement here). Sunday afternoon memories of making your first test century at the MCG, (albeit the one you built in your backyard). We all have memories of our childhood exercise and sport. And we all knew the benefits of exercise.
But something bizarre happens along the way! Something that allows us to be one of the sporting capitals of the world but also one of the most overweight countries in the world.
We grow up with sport ingrained into our blood, knowing physical activity is non-negotiable and great for you but we fail to transition this active lifestyle into our adulthood.
Families, work and all the other commitments that accompany adult life add up, to the detriment of what’s most important – our health and wellbeing. Perhaps we need a reminder of how undeniably valuable physical activity truly is. We’ve broken them down into the big 3. We hope that revisiting them will encourage you to make exercise apart of your daily routine again. Just like you did for the first 216 months of your life.
The 3 Major Benefits of Exercise
1. Good for your heart, bones and muscles
The human body is one large incredible piece of machinery. Like any machine, we require energy to function! But instead of petrol, we consume substrates such as carbohydrates (sugar), fats and proteins in our food.
Our bodies consume oxygen through our respiratory system (e.g. Mouth, Throat and Lungs), using our circulatory system to deliver oxygen to muscles around the body. The oxygen is then used to break down our consumed substrates releasing energy! This process is called Respiration!
This energy is then used to help us walk, run, jump, everything!
Cardiovascular exercise such as walking or running increases the volume of blood the heart can expel with a single pump (Increased Stroke Volume) allowing the heart to beat more slowly to expel the same amount of blood (Stroke rate).
Resistance or weights training develops our muscles and force-generating capacity! This may not sound like much, but by increasing your muscular strength with weights training, we decrease the magnitude of the effect that day to day tasks have on our us!
But I don’t do any heavy lifting in my day to day life…
Every day whether you’re walking up some stairs or working on the tools, you are exercising. The stronger you are and the more lean muscle you have, the easier these day to day tasks will be.
Resistance training and high impact exercises like running and jumping can also cause an increase in bone density and resistance to breaking.
Human beings are more than the sum of our parts. But it sure helps when all the parts are working well together.
2. EXERCISE CAN HELP MANAGE YOUR BODYWEIGHT!
More specifically exercise can help you manage your BODY FAT!
But what’s the difference between BODY FAT and BODY WEIGHT?
Bodyweight refers to your body as a whole including our muscle, fat, bones and water. Body fat refers purely to the amount of fat we carry. When we exercise we want to lose fat, not muscle!
EXERCISE AND BODY FAT
Exercise and diet are the two main methods of managing your body fat.
Simply put, body fat changes when the amount of energy (calories) you consume in your diet does not match the amount of energy you burn during the day.
If you consume more energy than you expel, you will be in CALORIE SURPLUS, and your body fat will go up. If you expel more energy then you consume, you will be in a CALORIE DEFICIT. This will cause your body fat will go down. Increasing your physical activity levels is a simple way to increase your daily calorie expenditure and begin to tip you into a calorie deficit.
MANAGING BODY FAT – WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Managing our body fat composition is important because excess body fat can lead to an increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and dyslipidemia as well as an increased risk of other chronic illness such as diabetes and even cancer.
Regular exercise increases muscle activity and calorie consumption for up to 48 hours post-exercise. So even when you aren’t exercising you are burning more fat than usual.
BODY FAT VS. BODY COMPOSITION
You may ask – why can’t I just eat less? Good question.
Eating less is a viable option and should be balanced with a healthy level of exercise. It is important to note that dramatically decreasing your calorie consumption can be a bit of a shock to your system. This can cause your body to go into ‘SURVIVAL MODE’.
The way it was explained to me is that suddenly, your body thinks It’s back in the wild, where our ancestors had to forage and hunt for food not knowing when, where or if our next meal was ever going to come!
So what does it do? It does what anyone would do when faced with the threat of death.
IT HOLDS ON FOR DEAR LIFE! Holding on to any speck of extra fuel it can save until next time.
In reality, it isn’t this dramatic. But your body does slow down and with that so does our metabolism. Even though eating less may lead to a decrease in body weight, a large percentage of that is made up of muscle tissue and it can even lead to an INCREASE IN BODY FAT COMPOSITION.
Plus let’s be real here. Who wants to give up the foods they love…?
So simply put, exercise is pivotal in keeping you at a healthy weight, with less of what’s bad (excessive fat) and more of what’s good (lean muscle).
3. Improved Mental Health – decreased anxiety and stress
Exercise is good for your mind too! You might not believe us but it’s true!
Regular exercise has been proven to decrease feelings of depression and anxiety, as well as increasing feelings of confidence and self-esteem. The mechanism lies through the increase in endorphins – the ‘happy’ chemicals in our brain.
Exercise also increases energy levels and improves sleep quality.
But there’s nothing I want to do less when I am feeling down than go to the gym!
From my experience exercise does NOT have to be overly strenuous or incredibly boring for it to be effective. You don’t have to force yourself to go to the gym for two hours or take a class you hate.
FIND SOMETHING THAT SUITS YOU
Whether it’s taking a 10–minute walk with your headphones in or going for a kick of the footy with your mate, find something that you enjoy, and you will be surprised at how much of a difference it can make. The true extent of the benefits of exercise is almost beyond comprehension. Exercise should be made an integral part of your daily routine.
If you know any other benefits of exercise or have a story about how exercise has helped you manage your weight, your mental health or your body in general comment below, we would love to hear it! If you want more information about how integrating exercise into your routine can positively impact your life, check out our other blogs or shoot us an email, we would love to hear from you!