What is your exercise routine like? Is it something you do religiously, or is it more of a ‘sometimes’ activity. Maybe you don’t see the value of exercise at all.
Our relationship with exercise definitely changes across our lifespan. When we are young, exercise isn’t actually called ‘exercise.’ It’s playing with our friends, kicking a ball or riding our bikes. As we get older, it could be team or individual sports. But when we become adults, suddenly it becomes ‘exercise’ and, with that, comes a lot of baggage. Exercise no longer becomes fun or enjoyable, it becomes a chore that you have to do because you know it’s good for you. But do you actually know why it’s good for you in the first place?
Our bodies are constantly changing in relation to our environment. As humans, we are made to adapt. If we do activities that put load on our muscles, we get stronger. If we move our body in a way that keeps our heart rate and demand for oxygen up, we get fitter. The same is true for loading our bones with weight bearing exercise, and doing mobility exercises for flexibility.
So, as adults, why should we take time out of our busy lives to invest in exercise?
1. Heart heath: Men and women who exercise regularly have been found to have a reduced risk of death, even if they have risk factors for cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity) (Kaleta et al., 2017).
2. Muscle maintenance: Regular exercise is the only way to consistently prevent muscle loss associated with ageing. Exercise produces the same beneficial effects in older adults as it does with younger individuals (Landi et al., 2014).
3. Bone strength: Exercise is one of the key modifiable factors capable of influencing bone health by preventing the destruction of bone cells and preserving bone mass and strength (Santos, Elliott-Sale & Sale, 2017).
4. Gut health: There is some evidence emerging that exercise may play a part in diversifying the microbial composition of the gut which can contribute to suitable signalling along the brain-gut axis and overall health status of the person (Monda et al., 2017).
5. Health and wellness: Chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and some cancers can be caused as a result of a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity can prevent, or delay, the diagnosis of many chronic diseases (Booth, Roberts & Laye, 2012).
As with anything in life, the benefits of exercise and moving your body come when you do it consistently. So many people tell me that they don’t exercise because they don’t enjoy it. To them I say this: you’re not doing the right kind of exercise for you. If you don’t enjoy the exercise you’re currently doing, find something you do enjoy, and do that instead. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to exercise because of the physical benefits, and those benefits are definitely important, but effect of regular exercise on our mental health shouldn’t be overlooked.
6. Mental health and stress relief: Exercise is comparable to antidepressant medication as a first-line treatment for people with mild to moderate depression (Carek, Laibstain & Carek, 2011) and is an effective method in managing the symptoms of anxiety in people with anxiety and stress-related disorders (Stubbs et al., 2017).
At the end of the day, we all want to live our lives feeling healthy, happy and strong, especially as we get older. If exercise is already a part of your weekly routine, keep at it! If exercise hasn’t been a priority in your life, I think this quote sums it up best:
“If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably have to make time for illness” – Robin S. Sharma
A huge Thank You to our Guest Blogger Rachel Evans from The RE.Connection Project for this blog post.