Active April is drawing to a close but that doesn’t mean we have to hang up our trainers! It’s no secret that getting moving helps us to be fitter, stronger and healthier. When as little as 30 minutes of physical activity a day has so many benefits to our overall health, why would you stop?
Here are just a handful of the many ways being active increases our overall health and well-being:
Exercise reduces our stress levels and helps us respond positively to stress
Exercise reduces the body’s level of cortisol and increases its production of endorphins – both key hormones that help us respond and adapt to stress.
When stress affects the brain, with its billions of neural connections, the rest of the body feels is influence as well. So, it makes sense that when your body feels better, so does your mind.
Exercise improves memory and cognitive function
Just 10-30 minutes of light physical activity is enough to increase cerebral blood flow and boost brain connectivity. Exercise also increases the production of new neural cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus – this is an area responsible for our ability to think, learn and remember. This production of new cells is called neurogenesis and we now know the brain is capable of this well into our 80’s and 90’s so exercise is super protective against age related cognitive decline.
Exercise drives weight loss and healthy weight maintenance
When we think of weight loss, we often think of slogging it out for long sessions at the gym. We often think that we have to do a lot of exercise to lose weight, but that isn’t necessarily the case!
As little as five minutes of exercise a day can improve our cardiovascular fitness and boost our metabolism, and just 30 minutes a day can help us prevent excess weight gain and help us maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise improves mental health and mood
Exercise can help increase the production of a number of our brain’s feel-good and reward signalling chemicals, such as endorphins and dopamine.
Regular exercise can improve our stress responses and really help with a range of common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. It has also been shown to be a useful adjunct treatment in the recovery from major psychiatric illness such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue
Regular exercise improves our cardiovascular health and fitness, allowing for better oxygen and energy supply to working tissues. It also increases the ability of our mitochondria (the little power plants inside each of your cells) to churn out useable energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Overall this gives us the energy to do more.
Over time exercise also increases the efficiency of a range of cellular processes, allowing us to do more with less.
Exercise lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes
Aerobic exercise particularly, lowers our risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. It improves glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity and this in turn decreases the risk of associated illnesses such as heart attack, kidney disease and stroke.
Exercise decreases both blood pressure and cholesterol
Regular exercise can be as effective in reducing blood pressure and cholesterol as medications. This means we can effectively treat these conditions and decrease out risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Exercise increases muscle and bone strength, lowering the risk of osteoporosis
Resistance training is critical for maintaining and improving the health and strength of your muscles and bones. It minimises the loss of muscle and bone density as we age.
Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle, and osteopenia is the loss of bone density. Sarcopenia is a leading cause of functional decline and loss of independence, and osteopenia can lead to osteoporosis and increase the risk of fractures such as hip, spine and rib fractures.
Exercise can lower your risk of falls
Exercising can help prevent falls because it improves strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. By decreasing the risk of falls we also decrease the risk of follow on effects such as fractures, hip replacements and brain bleeds.
Exercise can improve sleep quality and quantity
Moderate exercise can help to improve not only the number of hours we sleep but also the quality of our sleep. By participating in physical activity during the day, we can stimulate longer periods of slow-wave sleep, the deepest and most restorative stages of sleep. This helps us to wake feeling rested and refreshed.
Want to know how you can make the leap to a more active lifestyle? Why not see our Exercise Physiologist for a tailored plan developed just for you?