Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Movement promotes healing and helps to maintain wellness. Many of us lead sedentary lifestyles, due to our work environments, our dependence on technology, and simply because we are exhausted at the end of a long day.
It is recommended that you consult with your healthcare professional before embarking on a physical activity regimen. The level of activity will vary based on your weight, age, health condition, and capabilities. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of physical activity.
Main Benefits of Physical Activity to Consider
Our bodies are designed to move. Our organs, bones, tissues, blood and mental clarity depend on oxygen to function properly. We increase oxygen by being physically active, not just by breathing. It is important that we include various forms of physical activity to best benefit all of our wellness needs.
1. Cardiovascular Health
The heart is one of the hardest working organs and muscles in our bodies. It is what keeps us alive. Along with an appropriate diet, it is imperative that we nourish our blood and hearts by incorporating exercise. Cardio exercise is appropriately named for this reason. This is what pumps oxygen into our blood. The NIH states that exercise can help lower LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure. Walking just 30 minutes 5 days a week is a great place to start for heart health.
2. Weight Control
Regular exercise plays a big part in maintaining proper weight and warding off obesity. We need to burn the calories that we consume. This is best achieved by physical movement. The more you move, the more calories you burn. Make it a point to get up and move a little every 30 minutes if you are sedentary most of the day. At work, take the stairs or park your car a distance away from the building entrance to increase your mobility.
3. Bone Density and Muscle Tone
As we age our bones lose density and our muscle tissue can lose flexibility and strength. Strength training and weight lifting are recommended for maintaining strong bones and toned muscles. This can protect you from damage should you slip and fall. Start out low and slow with weights. 15 minutes 2x a day lifting light weights is enough to help when beginning. Speak with your doctor about incorporating calcium and magnesium supplements into your routine. After age 50, it is a good idea to get a bone density scan, especially before you start an exercise program.
4. Improved Digestion
It may seem strange that physical activity can improve digestion. It is true that moving your body will greatly improve the motility of your intestines. This is necessary in order to prevent chronic constipation. Have you ever wondered why distance runners often describe the “need to go” during a long race? Continuous movement helps to increase the contracting actions of the digestive tract. While you don’t need to run a marathon to achieve this, it is a good idea to incorporate activities that include continuous movement, such as jogging, cycling, swimming, or jumping on a rebounder.
5. Stress Management
Stress places an enormous strain on your body. You may find that you are experiencing muscle tension, raised heart rate, fatigue, and depression when you are stressed. Exercise, along with periods of meditation, can alleviate some of these symptoms. Exercise helps to release endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Many find that doing yoga or chi-qong are terrific ways to release tension and clear their minds of stressful thoughts.
It is no secret that physically active adults move better, have more energy, and have better skin. This is not a phenomenon. The benefits of physical activity for aging well cannot be disputed. Studies on mice have repeatedly shown that those who exercise on a wheel daily live longer than those who are sedentary. This is true for humans. Many cultures promote dancing as a great way to stay active and social and to increase longevity.
7. Helps Periods
Another great thing about consistent physical activity is the way it helps with so many of the common issues that go along with having a regular period. For so many women, periods are a time of low energy, cramping and back pain, mood swings because of PMS, and general uncomfortableness. But with exercise (the type you do while also listening to your body and what it needs), many of these complaints can be eased. For instance, regular exercise eases PMS symptoms. Much of that hormonal energy ends up getting spent by your workouts, and you will feel much better. Another thing exercise does is combat the hormones that go along with mood swings and stress. Cortisol is combated by the endorphins that come when you move your body. Futhermore, when you exercise on your period, you will feel more accomplished and like you took care of your body at a point in time when you are bloated and may not have high self esteem. Another great thing exercise on your period does is help your body to hurt less. There are so many pains that come during this time, but you can combat these by doing exercise.
Now, it’s important to remember that you don;t need to push yourself too much on your period. Light exercises are great such as yoga and pilates and stretching. You will really need to listen to your body during these few days of your cycle. A great thing to do is to read up on all the exercises are best for your body as the cycle goes on. Every month, your body is going through cycle phases. It is good to know what kinds of exercises are best at what points in the nonstop cycle, not just during your period.
Motivational Tips for Getting and Staying Physically Active
If you are new to exercise and physical activity or have a health condition that limits your mobility, but really want to get healthier, start out with a program that you can manage. Walking outside in the sun is a great place to start. Walk with friends to keep you accountable. You might want to invest in a pedometer or wristband that tracks activity and sleep. PC Magazine has a comparison of trackers for 2017. Make a smart plan to increase your level of activity over time.
Set your cell phone alarm to remind you to get up from your desk every 30 minutes. Take a walk to the mailbox, stretch, walk a set of stairs or do whatever gets you moving for a few minutes. Consider joining a gym and taking classes. Gym memberships can be had for as little as $10 per month. The social interaction is a motivational plus.
If you are already physically active, it may be time to switch up your routine. Doing the same exercises and activities every day may not be 100 percent beneficial and could put repeated stress on joints. Try to mix things up to incorporate cardio, weights, strength training, yoga, stretching and fun outdoor activities with children. You want to make sure you have all the health benefits of physical activity covered. As we age, we often have to change our routines for our own safety and capabilities. Just don’t stop moving.
The importance of moving for a healthier lifestyle cannot be disregarded. The benefits of physical activity include improved heart, brain, bone, and muscle function, as well as lowered stress and better digestion. If your goal is to live a long and healthy life, you need to get and keep moving. If you have any concerns or health conditions, please consult with your health and wellness professional for guidance.
Feel free to share your positive experiences about the benefits of physical activity and tips for becoming and staying physically active. We love to hear from our readers.