We know that Zumba can make us fitter and thinner. But according to the medical journals there are many other benefits to exercise…
“Even a moderate amount of exercise helps your heart,” says Dr William Kraus, associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Centre, in an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine. “Some exercise is better than none and more is better than less.”
Exercise reduces LDL cholesterol, the kind that clogs arteries. It also reduces your blood pressure, relieving stress on your heart; improves your insulin sensitivity; improves heart muscle function; and blood flow and diminishes the chances of developing blood clots. These findings have been corroborated by a host of studies over the years.
Exercise promotes weight loss
Research has shown that to manage weight, you should exercise energetically for at least 30 minutes a day or do an hour of intensive exercise every second day if this fits into your schedule more easily. Be consistent and be regular. Do those one-hour exercise sessions three to four times every week, not just one week a month, and you will achieve the result you desire – to lose weight and keep it off, says Dr Ingrid van Heerden, registered dietician.
Exercise prevents osteoporosis
Exercise, together with a healthy calcium intake, builds strong bones. Weight-bearing exercises, like running, walking and Zumba, help lower your odds of getting osteoporosis as you grow older. Ideally, you should start when you’re young, but it’s never too late to pick up the habit.
Most of the studies involved participating in one or more aerobic (activities that increase heart rate and improve the body’s ability to use oxygen) activity for 20 – 30 minutes per session, several times a week.
On average, exercise helped study participants reduce systolic (top number) pressure by nearly 4 mm Hg, and diastolic (bottom number) pressure by slightly more than 2.5 mm Hg. But experts caution that those with extremely high blood pressure should not rely on exercise alone to control hypertension.
Exercise is an excellent de-stressor
Exercise acts as a temporary diversion to daily stresses and it improves self-esteem. Increased core temperature during exercise
may lead to reduced muscle tension and favourable alterations in brain neurotransmitters. Mood improvements may also occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates, e.g. endorphins. Psychological changes may occur because of changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety levels.
Exercise prevents colds
We don’t automatically associate regular exercise with a reduction in the number of colds people get. But researchers from the University of Carolina found that people who exercised regularly were 23% less likely to get colds than those who exercised less. And if those who exercised got colds, the symptoms disappeared more quickly than in the study participants who did little exercise. Health experts believe that exercise spikes the immune system for a few hours each day, helping to ward off colds.
Exercise reduces diabetic complications
Lifestyle factors have a huge impact on certain conditions – and diabetes is one of them. Exercise can help to reduce your insulin requirements, lower your cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, and in the long term can reduce the development of heart disease and stroke. This is important because diabetics have a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory problems. Exercise can also promote weight loss, improve circulation and reduce stress levels (raising your glucose level).
Exercise plays a role in preventing cancer
At least 35% of all cancer deaths may be related to overweight and lack of activity, the Seattle Cancer Research Centre has found. Exercise is believed to speed the passage of food through the colon, thereby reducing the amount of time that any toxins are in contact with the body. Overweight people also tend to have more insulin, which promotes the growth of tumours. For women, exercise reduces the level of oestrogen, a hormone linked to breast cancer.
Exercise enhances blood flow to the brain, possibly reducing risk of stroke. It also improves reasoning and memory.
Regular exercise arouses the brain and slows down degeneration of the central nervous system, which leads to slower reaction times and poorer coordination.
Exercise also increases strength and size of muscles and improves lung function. Regular exercise can reduce body fat and lower the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases in the elderly. Recent literature suggests that the greatest threat to health is not the aging process itself, but rather inactivity.
Exercise promotes brain health
If you thought exercising your brain meant only doing a few crossword puzzles or learning a language, you may be wrong. Researchers from the University of Illinois found that the brain responses in active seniors were comparable to those of young adults.
It is thought that exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain, just as it improves circulation to the heart and the rest of the body. Activity also stimulates the growth of nerve cells in the part of the brain involved in memory.
Exercise is great for your sex life
The reason seems to be two-fold: psychologically you feel better about yourself and more inclined towards sex, and physically, being fit improves libido, blood circulation and sexual functioning.
The brain may be the most important sexual organ. This is because stressed, anxious and depressed people are usually unable to enjoy a healthy sex life. Additionally, people with a bad body image do not feel good about their bodies and often avoid sex or are unable to truly enjoy it.
Exercise improves sleeping patterns
Relaxation exercises/wind down will help you to ease tension and relieve headaches, backaches and insomnia. Exercise releases the body’s own painkillers, called endorphins, into your system. It also helps you to gain a sense of emotional wellbeing and a feeling of being more in control.
Exercise helps prevent stroke
Need another reason to make good on that long overdue promise to get more exercise? It can dramatically cut your risk of stroke. “Highly active” people had a 27 percent lower risk of having a stroke or dying if they had one, compared with sedentary folks. And people who were “moderately active” had a 20 percent lower risk.
Exercise is good for mind and soul
In a synopsis on “Exercise, Fitness and Mental Health” (1990), sports psychologist D.R. Brown summarised the possible beneficial effects that exercise has on mental health. These include the following:
- Exercise may act as a temporary diversion to daily stresses.
- Exercise provides an opportunity for social interaction that may otherwise be lacking in an individual’s life.
- Exercise provides an opportunity for self-mastery. Increasing fitness or improving body composition and other health parameters may improve an individual’s self-esteem.
- Increased core temperature during exercise may lead to reduced muscle tension or alterations to brain neurotransmitters.
- Mood improvements may occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates e.g. endorphins
- Psychological changes may occur due to alterations in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety level.
Exercise allows you to improve muscle strength, joint structure and joint function
Strengthening exercises increase not only muscle strength and mass, but also bone strength, and the body’s metabolism. A certain level of muscle strength is needed to function every day and do things such as walking and climbing stairs. Strengthening exercises increase this muscle strength by putting more strain on a muscle than it is normally accustomed to receiving. This increased load stimulates the growth of proteins inside each muscle cell that allow the muscle as a whole to contract.
Exercise can promote joint health for everyone, but particularly for people who suffer from arthritis. Arthritis is a general term for over 100 different conditions that cause pain, stiffness and often inflammation in one or more joints. Exercise can reduce some arthritis symptoms and improve joint mobility and strength. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Normally, the two bones of a joint are cushioned with a strong flexible tissue called cartilage. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage deteriorates, causing pain and stiffness. Cartilage doesn’t have a blood supply; it relies on synovial fluid moving in and out of the joint to nourish it and take away waste products. Exercise helps this process.
Regular, intensive exercise for patients with rheumatoid arthritis builds muscle strength and aerobic capacity, improves the ability to do daily tasks and fosters a sense of well-being.
The positive effects on muscle strength and aerobic capacity could be translated into an improvement in the activities of daily living, and this is what really makes a difference in your life.From ’20 Good reasons to get Moving’ by Susan Erasmus www.health24.com
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