Exercise for Optimum Health
We all know that exercise is essential for our health and well-being. Then why do less than 40% of us exercise on a regular basis? We know we should do it, but why is it so hard to force ourselves? Mostly that is because we don’t see it as fun or enjoyable. But you don’t have to pump iron in a smelly gym or wear yourself out running 10kms, or bore yourself swimming laps if you don’t like it. The most important thing is finding an activity that you enjoy as even mild levels of activity have been shown to have significant health benefits.
So take the dog for a walk along the beach, get into the garden, ride a bike, play a round of golf or tennis, or try something new like a yoga class or kickboxing! You just might have fun! And the benefits are remarkable.
Walking 30 minutes a day has been shown to dramatically decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer (even melanoma), dementia, arthritis, heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, depression etc. the list goes on! Not only will you help prevent most chronic illness, but you will feel better, have more energy, sleep better, increase immune response and improve brain function.
Quite simply, exercising is the best thing you can do for your health. It is the “magic pill”!
Scientific research has also shown that the type of exercise you do is vitally important.
Contrary to popular belief, if you mostly do cardio or aerobic exercise it can be detrimental to your overall health, and may increase your risk of death! This is the kind of exercise that involves extended periods of moderate exertion, such as jogging, cycling and swimming laps. (As opposed to high intensity exercise such as short sprints or weight training which is highly beneficial).
Aerobic or cardio exercise has been shown to decrease heart and lung power as the body adapts to the extended low output demands of these exercises. The problem here is that decreased lung power in particular is known to be one of the main indicators of an early death.
This decrease in heart and lung capacity is easy to understand if you compare the strong, powerful build of a sprinter to the physique of a marathon runner.
The same applies to their heart and lungs.
Extended aerobic exercise is also known to increase the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, decrease bone mass and increase chronic inflammation and even atherosclerosis. In fact, blood tests taken at the end of a marathon indicate cardiac damage has occurred.
The solution to this is that we must include short bursts of high intensity. This goes back to the hunter-gatherer days when humans would walk over 10kms per day on average, interspersed with short bursts of intense activity. This may have been to chase down and wrestle our dinner, or run and climb a tree to avoid being dinner!
Short bursts of high intensity might involve lifting weights or racing the dog along the beach (my favourite!). Anything that gets the heart pumping and, most importantly, gets you puffing. Even just squatting up and down quickly on the spot will get you out of breath. Be sure to check with your doctor first if you have not done this kind of exertion for a while.
Short bursts of high intensity has been shown to increase your lung capacity and heart power, increase muscle mass and decrease fat stores, decrease blood sugar levels and blood pressure, increase bone density, increase the ability to uptake oxygen etc. It is very good for you!
So there we go. Exercise, it’s good for you! Who’d have guessed!
Be sure to go for it from time to time and get out of breath, because that’s where the real health benefits are. Plus it’s dose dependant: the more you do the better. So get out there and have fun, and don’t forget the kids!