Benefits of exercise: Top reasons why you should be sweating it out more in the gym


What is exercise?

Exercise is the term given to any kind of movement that makes your muscles work and makes your body burn calories. Exercise enhances or maintains physical fitness and an individual’s overall health.

Prehistoric human beings were a great deal stronger than us as they got a lot of exercise in the form of hunting, walking, making tools, farming and escaping a predator.

Our overall strength has declined because technology has made our lives very easy, compared to what it was during prehistoric times. Today most people are practically sedentary and this has resulted in a decline in bone strength, obesity, and other diseases. That is why exercising is very important.

Types of excises

Although there are thousands of exercises to choose from, they can be grouped under four categories:

Aerobic exercises

These are exercises that work your cardiovascular system. Due to this reason, it is popularly known as cardio. The heart rate and breathing rate increases during aerobic exercise so that more oxygen is supplied to the muscles. You can increase your heart rate by doing the following workouts:

  • Running or jogging
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Playing sports

How much aerobic exercise is required?

It is recommended that adults should indulge in at least 150 minutes of cardio per week. Although you can divide this time in many ways, experts recommend, you should do 30 minutes of cardio, 5 days a week.

What happens to the body when you do aerobic exercise regularly?

If you have started doing cardio exercises regularly, this is what happens to your body

  • Your heart becomes stronger and starts pumping more blood. Your heart also increases in size and begins to pump blood more efficiently.
  • As your heart gets stronger, it does not need to work hard enough when you exercise. This is the reason why athletes and sportsmen’s hearts don’t pump as fast during exercise. Their resting heart rate is also less, about 40 bpm compared to the average (60-80 bpm).
  • The muscles also get more efficient at consuming oxygen and this improves your body’s endurance.

How to avoid injury while doing aerobic exercises?

You should always ease into aerobic exercises as working out too hard and too fast leads to injuries. People with joint problems should stay away from high-impact exercises which involves a lot of jumping. They should instead do low impact exercises like riding a bike.

Strength exercises

This type of exercises works your muscles by using resistance (which can be your own weight or other weights). Strength exercise increases lean muscle mass. This is very important in losing weight as lean muscles tend to burn more calories. People also naturally start losing muscle mass with age, so strength training is also important to older adults. Some examples of strength exercises include

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Weight lifting
  • Crunches
  • Resistance bands

How much strength exercise is required?

People are advised to do strength exercises – that work the muscles in the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms – at least two days per week. When you do a strength exercise for a specific muscle group, you should try to do at least 8-12 repetitions.

How to avoid injury while doing strength exercises?

You should always start by working under a trainer when you do strength exercises. This is because the trainer will show you the correct positions and techniques. Also, while starting out, you should use light weights then gradually increase as you become more and more comfortable.

Flexibility exercises

These types of exercises improve the flexibility of your muscles and improve the range of your joints. These exercises are usually done by sportsmen and athletes in order to improve their flexibility and prevent the risk of injuries. There are two types of flexibility exercises:

Static stretching: This is when you stretch a muscle without moving

Dynamic stretching: This is when you combine stretching with movements

How much flexibility exercise is required?

Flexibility exercising can be combined with any workout. Dynamic stretching should be done as a warm up before you start doing other exercises. Sportsmen and athletics regularly do dynamic stretching before hitting the field. Static stretching can also be done before a workout session.

Benefits of stretching

  • Stretching leads to improved flexibility.
  • It also reduces the risk of injury, especially in sportsperson and athletes.
  • Stretching also helps reduce the formation of lactic acid in the muscle, which gives a burning sensation in the muscles after an intense workout.

Other exercise programs

Zumba

Zumba is an exercise fitness program that was created by Colombian dancer Alberto “Beto” Pérez in the 1990s. This program incorporates the principles of both aerobic and flexibility exercises in the form of slow and fast-paced dance moves. These are some of the benefits of Zumba.

  • Helps you lose weight
  • Helps you build endurance
  • Gives you confidence
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Improves posture
  • Increases coordination

Tabata

This is a fitness program that is based on high-intensity interval training featuring 4 min exercises. Although each Tabata exercise lasts for only 4 minutes, it is highly strenuous. Each exercise consists of the following structure

  • 20 seconds of high intensity work out
  • 10 seconds of rest
  • 8 sets of the particular exercise

Tabata is useful for people who are short on time. This program helps you improve your endurance and improve speed.

Other Benefits of exercising regularly

Being physically active not only improves your physical health but it can also boost your mental health. Here are some other benefits of working out

It makes you happy

If you are unhappy or feeling low or negative then it’s time to get moving. Research has proved that exercise results in the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormone) that instantly lifts your mood and makes you feel good. Additionally, exercising is also known to bring down anxiety and feelings of depression.

The intensity and duration of the exercise don’t matter and you’ll start feeling good even if you decide to take a short jog. However, you should exercise regularly as your bad mood is likely to return when you stop.

It helps you shed weight

This is one of the more obvious benefits of exercise. In fact, one of the main reasons why people start exercising is to lose weight. The science behind exercising and weight loss are simple. You need to burn more calories than you consume. Most people resort to dieting to lose weight but it better to incorporate dieting with exercise to achieve faster results. This is because only dieting just slows down your metabolism, which will just delay the process of burning calories. However, exercising is known to increase your metabolism, which results in faster weight loss.

It can increase your energy levels

Research has proved that six weeks of exercising leads to an increase in energy and reduced feelings of fatigue. This is because physical activities make you digest your food better and absorb more nutrients. Your muscles also get strengthened leading to more endurance.

It can help you prevent certain diseases

In today’s world, one of the main reasons behind getting diseases is a sedentary lifestyle. Being physically active makes you maintain your body weight and stay fit. This makes you less vulnerable to diseases like heart diseases, hypertension, and diabetes. Regular physical activities are known to improve your insulin sensitivity, strengthen your heart and lower blood pressure.

Improves skin health

When you exercise, you tend to sweat a lot and this leads to the opening of pores in your skin. This, in turn, leads to glowing skin. Apart from that, regular physical activity also decreases oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress occurs when the body’s antioxidants are unable to neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals (toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism). This results in premature aging and the skin becoming dull. Exercising boosts the production of the body’s natural antioxidants.

Helps improve brain health

Exercise helps improve brain function and enhance thinking skills. When you indulge in physical activity, the heart rate increases and more blood is pumped to your brain. Additionally, working out can also stimulate the release of hormones that enhances the development of brain cells. Exercise is also known to cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

Helps you sleep better

Sleep is very important for the body as it during this time the body tends to heal and repair itself. As a result, poor sleeping habits can have a negative impact on your overall health. You can sleep better if you excise as your body promotes sleep when you are tired. A study revealed that 150 minutes of exercise can improve your sleep quality by 65%. Exercising is also known to help insomniacs sleep longer and better.

Can reduce pain

Regular exercise is known to reduce chronic pain. Several studies have shown that exercising helps with chronic low back pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic soft tissue shoulder disorder. Furthermore, exercise also helps raise pain tolerance and reduce pain perception.

Boosts sex life

It has been proved that exercise boosts sex life. This is because exercising improves the cardiovascular system, tones muscles and improves flexibility. And this, in turn, improves sexual performance and sexual pleasure. A study showed that a six-minute walk helped men reduce their erectile dysfunction symptoms by 71%. Another study showed that a group of women experienced more orgasms when they added strenuous exercise into their lifestyles.

How can I make exercise a habit?

People are usually lazy to work out they would rather spend their free time doing some other thing like watching TV. If you are looking to be more active, the following tips can help you

  • Set a fixed time: This is very important as exercising at the same time every day can help you stick to it. Mornings are the best time to exercise as the body is well rested after a good night’s sleep
  • Start small: You don’t have to go on a 20 mile run from the first day itself. Start by walking for 1-2 miles, then progress to jogging. Finally, you can start running. You can also increase the distance as you get comfortable.
  • Make it fun: Most people hate exercising as they find it dull and boring. If you don’t like going to the gym, you can go on a walk to a nearby lake or a hill. You can also bring a friend along. Playing sports can also be a fun way to work out.
  • Don’t over think: Don’t think that you have to exercise for this long and you need to lose weight in this number of days. Just put on your shoes and gear and head out the door and have some fun.
  • Try to mix things up: You can make things for interesting by mixing up your workouts. You can jog for one day, then swim, dance, go biking and play sports on the other days.
  • Give yourself a rest day: Take a break, at least once a week, to help your body recover.

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