Many of you may believe that going to the gym means lifting heavy weights and sweating it out on the treadmill for an hour to make sure that you look good for the beach. What you may not realise is that, besides the physical changes that take place in terms of the appearance of your body, there are many more physiological changes taking place inside your body, improving your state of health.
Last week, I encouraged you to keep active on a daily basis and gave you tips on how to do that. Here, I will reiterate the importance of keeping active in order to improve your physical and mental health.
Exercise also plays a vital role in the musculoskeletal system. With age, you lose muscle mass, which means that your fat percentage increases, putting you at a higher risk for heart disease. By performing light resistance exercises 2-3 times per week, you can maintain your muscle mass and thus keep your body fat percentage at a healthy level. These exercises will also help to maintain the strength of your muscles, allowing you to perform your daily activities with more ease for longer. By performing gentle stretching exercises, you maintain flexibility of the muscles and mobility around your joints, thereby reducing your risk for injury. Weight-bearing exercises (exercises performed using your own body weight) assist in maintaining bone strength and are thus essential in patients with osteopenia or osteoporosis. Moderate-intensity, low-impact exercises are recommended for individuals with arthritis and assist in maintaining mobility and reducing pain in arthritic joints.
Exercise is an essential component in the management of various chronic diseases, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. For diabetic patients, exercise is, in fact, one of the primary treatments for the management of this condition. By keeping the diabetic patient active, you assist in maintaining reasonable glucose levels, reduce their risk for heart disease, and assist in weight management. Exercise is also important in reducing the risk for developing diabetes. In neurological conditions, exercise can assist in managing the progression of these diseases.
Exercise provides a wonderful means to manage stress levels and enhance mood. When you exercise, endorphins – ‘happy hormones’ – are released, which improve your mood, making you feel better about yourself. Cardiovascular exercise and aerobics result in greater release of endorphins. Exercise also enables you to relieve the stresses of daily life, as you make time for yourself to focus on you and your body. Yoga and stretching exercises are wonderful for relieving stress and tension.
So, next time you think about starting an exercise regimen, think about the health benefits you will gain, rather than the physical changes you expect to see. Although it may often feel like a struggle to exercise, you will quickly miss it when you can no longer do it or have to stop temporarily.
Remember: don’t exercise if you are sick or on an antibiotic! The additional physical strain of exercise may be too much for your body to cope with if you are already trying to fight off an infection. Also, your immunity drops immediately after exercise, which means that you are likely to get sicker if you continue to exercise when you are not well. Listen to your body and take a break!