The 22nd of September marks National Fitness Day! A day to celebrate the important role physical activity plays in helping us all to lead healthier lifestyles. Whilst a nutritious diet and getting your five-a-day are paramount to a healthy body, exercise and physical activity are equally as important in maintaining good health and fitness.
In the modern world, where sedentary desk work is prevalent and the commute to the office is often by car or public transport, it is easy to live a life with minimal natural physical activity. This increases the need to set some time apart for exercise, whether it be a walk through the park or some weight work in the gym!
Why is physical activity so important? Whilst there are likely hundreds of reasons why you should get regular exercise, we highlight five of the most important reasons below.
It helps to prevent the onset of serious medical conditions
Regular exercise has been found to help prevent the onset and development of such conditions as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Regular exercise gets the heart pumping and can help to lower and control blood pressure, whilst also aiding with insulin sensitivity. Exercise uses energy stores in the body, known as glycogen, to fuel your muscles. This subsequently reduces blood glucose in the body as your muscles and liver try to replenish glycogen stores. Controlling the two above conditions and keeping blood flowing through your arteries subsequently helps prevent the development of coronary artery disease too.
Regular exercise can help assist you with weight management
Physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. Just 30 minutes of jogging can burn anywhere from 300 to 500 calories depending on your weight and the intensity of your run. Even a light walk around the park burns calories and keeps you active, so there is no need to massively exert yourself to make a difference. Your activity does not necessarily have to be cardio either! Weight training has been found to help the body burn fat for hours after you have stopped your exercise. Some studies even suggest you keep burning calories up to 72 hours after an intense weight session!
It helps improve your quality of sleep
A good workout, or even a brisk walk along the beach, can help improve the length and quality of your sleep according to some studies. Whilst researchers are not completely sure on the main reason why physical activity helps sleep, there is evidence to suggest that aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep, or deep sleep, we get during shut eye. Just be conscious with what time exercise works best for your sleep pattern, as endorphins released during exercise can keep you energised for an hour after working out, which may keep you awake initially!
Exercise can improve your mental sharpness and memory
Physical activity can also help with your ability to learn and remember things. Just 2 hours of brisk walking per week can improve your mental sharpness over time, as anaerobic exercise helps reduce inflammation and insulin resistance whilst also releasing chemicals in the brain that increase growth factors. A study performed by the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippocampus in the brain, the part of your mind that involves learning and mental sharpness.
It makes you feel happy!
Perhaps most importantly of all, regular physical activity makes you feel good! Without considering the improved mentality that comes naturally with good physical health, regular exercise has been shown to be effective at combatting anxiety and depression. Getting your body moving and the blood flowing helps to regulate your mood through the release of endorphins, the chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy and euphoric. Working out also increases levels of norepinephrine, a chemical in our body that moderates the brains response to stress and tension.
And what better a day than National Fitness Day to start on your path to better health, fitness and fulfilment? Research has shown that it is never too late in life to start and feel the benefits!
Fitness unites us.
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