What are the benefits of exercise and what is the best type of exercise for you?
“If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation”
A well-known quote, but what exactly does exercise do for you? It is hard to find a body function for which it is not beneficial. I’ve listed them all and there may be a few you had not considered:
1. Bone Density: just like muscles, bone can become stronger regardless of age. Bone responds positively to stresses applied regularly to it and will become more dense and stronger and therefore less likely to fracture
2. Breathing and Circulation: exercise strengthens your heart muscle, lowers your resting heart rate, reduces blood pressure and has been shown to help lower your bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) levels, which helps to prevents build-up of plaque in your arteries
3. Immune System: exercise prompts deep breathing, which can literally flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. It also causes changes in antibodies, our disease-fighting blood cells, resulting in them being more active and more rapidly circulated.
4. Weight Management: this has to be done in conjunction with healthy eating and a balanced diet, however regular exercise conducted to a moderate intensity (aim to get warm and slightly out of breath) will help maintain a healthy weight.
5. Mental Health: a literature review conducted in 2007 on the effects of exercise on depression demonstrated that the social interaction was the most effective aspect; it has also recently come out top of a list of factors for long life. Exercise can help boost self-esteem and helps ease muscle tension associated with anxiety. It also slows the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and increases the release of serotonin and endorphins – hormones which trigger a positive feeling in the body.
6. Sleep and Energy: both of these are given a reciprocal ‘boost’ with regular exercise and one of the few benefits that quickly and almost immediately become noticeable. Sleep deprivation is one of the leading factors in chronic illness. It can be tricky to ‘get going’ with a regular exercise programme if energy is already lacking, but if you can, you won’t look back. (See our related blog on motivation to help get you started).
7. Digestion: exercise can help relieve constipation and promotes healthy digestion, and over time, it can also strengthen your digestive tract.
8. Pain Relief: exercise can be beneficial in reducing pain for so many conditions by strengthening, stretching, mobilising, de-sensitising and releasing lots of those lovely endorphins
9. Balance: hand in hand with our first benefit, plenty of exercise strengthens our lower limb muscles and improves our proprioception (our brain’s ability to know automatically what position joints are in and correct as needed), which prevents us from falling over.
10. Exercise has some amazing benefits, but they will all be enhanced if addressed in conjunction with an optimum work/life balance and healthy diet.
So what types of exercise are there and which one is best for you?
Exercise can basically be categorised as follows:
Strengthening (static and dynamic), Flexibility, Aerobic / Endurance (high and low impact), and Balance.
|Bone Density||Anything that applies stress to the bones – strengthening plus aerobic, but remember to work on balance too.|
|Breathing and Circulation||Aerobic.|
|Mental Health||All apply if providing you with social interaction, sense of achievement and an element of relaxation (which might occur after as opposed to during).|
|Sleep and Energy||See mental health section.|
|Digestion||Anything involving movement.|
|Pain Relief||If you are seeking to use exercise to address a particular health concern, take advice from a health professional to ensure you’re choosing the right one for you.|
|Balance||Says it on the tin – balance!|
|To help the process, we’ve listed some popular sports:||Strengthening||Flexibility||Aerobic||Balance|
*when conducted with the right warm-up and cool-down routine
**when conducted at a high intensity level
Nearly all sports can be beneficial both for strengthening and flexibility. Any sport is good and can be easily supplemented by a few extra exercises to tick all the boxes, so simply choose something you enjoy!
To achieve health benefits, the NHS advises 150 minutes (e.g. 30 minutes of 5 days) of moderate aerobic activity per week OR 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week AND strength exercises on two or more days working major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
However, if you’re just ‘getting going’, even 5-10 minutes is better than none.
Moderate activity will raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderate level is if you can still talk, but you can’t sing the words to a song. Stick to this level for the first few weeks if you are new to exercise.
Vigorous activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you’re working at this level, you won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
REMEMBER: ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING, AND ABOVE ALL ELSE, ENJOY IT!!
If you are unsure of what level of activity or type of exercise is suitable for you, then please contact our clinic and one of our Physiotherapy team will happily have a free telephone consultation with you. For those looking to return to exercise safely, we are delighted to recommend qualified personal trainers Ben Potter and Olly Freeman from VIDE Fitness.
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If you would like to know more about how we can help you, please contact us and one of our friendly team will be happy to discuss your needs, without obligation.
* Please note: If your treatment costs are to be paid directly by your health insurance company, we kindly ask that you contact us by phone or email to arrange your appointment.
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