Being active is widely known to be good for one’s health, but many people are not aware of the scientific reasons behind it. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which lead to a sense of calm and positive attitude that can last for hours or even an entire day. This feeling of well-being is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of being active.
While many people view exercise as a way to lose weight, the truth is that it is not very effective for weight loss. To lose weight from exercise, one must perform high-intensity workouts for 3 to 7 hours a week, which is a daunting commitment for most people. In fact, even with 7 hours of high-intensity exercise per week, weight loss rates are not particularly impressive. The most clinically effective method for weight loss remains caloric restriction. Nevertheless, exercise is still recommended for overweight or obese individuals as it provides numerous cardiovascular benefits, regardless of its limited impact on weight loss.
Exercise has numerous benefits that extend beyond weight loss. Studies have shown that a regular exercise routine can decrease the risk of early mortality, reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease and some forms of cancer, and improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression. Regular exercise trains the heart muscle to work more efficiently, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases over time. Additionally, routine aerobic exercise has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and improve glucose tolerance in individuals with and without type 2 diabetes.
In terms of mental health, exercise plays a crucial role in mood regulation. While it may not be as effective as psychiatric medication in treating severe depression and anxiety disorders, exercise has been shown to be beneficial for individuals with mild to moderate depression. The release of endorphins after a workout leads to a natural high that can lift one’s mood and promote psychological well-being, both in the short term and over time.
Weight-bearing exercises, such as lifting weights, are also crucial for maintaining a healthy body. By building muscle and improving musculoskeletal function, weight-bearing exercises prevent osteoporosis and the risk of fractures and debilitating injuries in old age.
Regular exercise throughout life can lead to a higher quality of life in old age by reducing pain from rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. Exercise enhances muscle function, builds stamina, and keeps the heart healthy, leading to a significant decrease in chronic disease in older populations.
Exercise does not have to be a daunting commitment. Just a few hours of moderate physical activity each week, such as brisk walking, can have significant cardiovascular benefits. This is equivalent to less than 30 minutes a day. Even small changes, like walking to the store instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can contribute to physical activity over the course of a day. So, put on your favorite playlist, grab your headphones, and get active! You’ll thank yourself in the long run.