YOUR BODY WAS DESIGNED TO MOVE, AND TO MOVE A LOT!
Advise from Dr Mark Rowe, GP, wellness expert and author
Primitive man was a hunter gatherer, in constant movement in the pursuit of food, as well as in the avoidance of predators. There were millennia of evolution to bring our bodies to the point where our brains, as well as our bodies put us firmly at the top of the food chain. Unfortunately, in the past century, our minds have taken centre stage and for many of us, the proper maintenance of our bodies has become an afterthought. Too many of us live primarily sedentary lives, spending hours a day at desks, behind the wheel, and slouched in front of computers or TV screens. This behaviour is absolutely not without consequence, our bodies simply weren’t designed to be idle.
Most people still do not get enough exercise, they slip into routines that don’t prioritise it, and live in denial as to the implications.
Despite most people having a general understanding that exercise is beneficial, the penny really hasn’t fully dropped yet. Most people still do not get enough exercise, they slip into routines that don’t prioritise it, and live in denial as to the implications. In my experience even doctors can be guilty of this, and we are presented with the consequences of such behaviour on a daily basis.
Of course everyone is busy, and can find it almost impossible to find the time to dedicate to exercise.
It’s never too late to reap the life-changing benefits of exercise, no matter how old you are or how unfit you feel right now.
There are two reasons why rationalising it this way is flawed. Firstly, exercise is so vital to wellbeing that it simply should take priority over many other activities. And secondly, the truth is that once a person engages with a routine of exercise, they will find that their performance will improve so much in the other aspects of their life that they are likely to have more time and not less! Put simply, avoiding exercise is a false economy, and I am dedicating this blog to explaining just some of the many reasons why it is so important to all of us. It’s never too late to reap the life-changing benefits of exercise, no matter how old you are or how unfit you feel right now.
EXERCISE: THE GREATEST PILL OF ALL!
Regular exercise has a multitude of benefits, of course it makes you feel much better physically, but many people are amazed by just how positively it improves their sense of well-being. It boosts your energy levels, endurance and stamina, as well as sharpening your mind. Put simply; you can do more, do it better, do it for longer, and all the while feel happier while you are doing it. Of course you are likely to look a lot better as well, but trust me when I say that is the least of the profound improvements to your life and longevity offered by simple exercise, which is freely available to us all. Here are some more detailed motivations to get moving!
Regular exercise strengthens your heart muscle, lowers blood pressure, and tends to thin the blood. As a result, it substantially reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, even for those who already have heart disease.
Your body can become a fat burning machine even when you are sitting at your desk!
Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories and fat. Regular exercise stimulates it, so raising your heart rate each day can mean that you are burning fat, not only while you are exercising but for some time afterwards. Your body can become a fat burning machine even when you are sitting at your desk!
You know those good and bad types of cholesterol you keep hearing about? Well exercise actually promotes the good (HDL), while reducing the bad (LDL), as well as lowering the fat that dissolves in your blood (triglycerides). This is hugely important to people of all ages but particularly to those in danger of being prescribed statins to control cholesterol levels, with recent research showing that these can increase the risk of diabetes.
The risk of diabetes, which is quickly becoming a world-wide epidemic, is greatly reduced through regular exercise. For those with existing diabetes, exercise reduces the risk of complications and is a great tool for managing the condition.
Weight bearing exercise is particularly important as you get older and the muscles tend to diminish. It’s not only the muscles however as weight bearing exercise promotes bone formation and delays bone loss, helping to prevent osteoporosis. In fact exercise slows the ageing process down, giving us great agency over how active we can be as we age.
Exercise is a great way to improve your sex life as it increases sex drive generally, as well as protecting men from erectile dysfunction and helping women with arousal.
ALWAYS CATCHING A COLD?
Exercise is of great benefit to the immune system, helping people to avoid catching common colds and flu. It is one of the most remarked upon benefits of people who adopt an active lifestyle as it is quite noticeable to those who fell ill regularly before choosing to be healthy.
Exercise promotes sleep and is often the first recommendation for those who have some problems in this area. It is wise to avoid exercising late at night though, as all the lovely endorphins might keep you awake!
EXERCISE AND THE MIND
Exercise also causes the brain to release a substance called BDNF which behaves like miracle-grow for the brain.
People who exercise invariably report feeling happier, having more clarity of thought, feeling less stressed about managing life’s challenges, and having much more robust coping mechanisms. Allow me to illuminate some of the technical reasons why this is a reality. First of all exercise reduces the levels of our bodies’ natural stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, making it a powerful way to ward off feelings of anxiety or depression. It stimulates a number of brain endorphins, which are a kind of natural painkiller that allow us to feel calm, optimistic and energised. Of course they minimize the discomfort that can be associated with exercise itself but they also persist afterwards creating a pleasant, even mildly euphoric feeling. Exercise also causes the brain to release a substance called BDNF which behaves like miracle-grow for the brain. This has myriad effects including stress reduction, increased IQ and short-term memory, and improvement in reaction time, hand eye co-ordination, and spatial awareness.
Exercise promotes the release of dopamine and serotonin, which enhance feelings of motivation and happiness respectively.
In addition to all this, exercise promotes the release of dopamine and serotonin, which enhance feelings of motivation and happiness respectively.
The upshot of all this is that exercise not only makes you faster, better, and stronger; but it also makes you happier and more resistant to ailments of both the body and the mind! The combined effects of all this can have an incredibly profound impact on your life. As you begin to feel and look better, you gain more confidence, more self-belief and mastery. This will spill into over into every aspect of your life improving your relationships, your career, and your enjoyment of life in general!
Tips to help you start exercising
There are no rules when it comes to exercise, there are many ways to do it and you should always choose the method must suited to you. But there are some tips which can help you get over the initial challenge of making exercise habitual in your life.
- Keep a journal to keep track of your progress. Not only of the work that you do, but also the benefits you start to feel. This will be a useful motivator when you need it!
- Develop a program for yourself so that you have a plan, but don’t punish yourself, or lose faith if you slip up, just soldier on.
- Prepare your work-out clothes before you go to bed at night. It’s surprising how having this little task pre-accomplished can make the difference.
- Give yourself a target of persevering with your routine for two months, tell yourself that you can stop after that if you want. You won’t want to!
- Choose specific blocks of time that you will dedicate to exercise, preferably at least 4 or 5 times a week.
When you consider that by just committing a half hour a day or less to exercise, you can change your whole life in such a profound way, it really does seem like a no brainer!
Ask yourself the following questions in your exercise journal:
These will help you trouble shoot your routine and find a process that is most suited to you. There can be some trial and error discovering your rhythm but there is a work-out available to everyone, you just have to find yours!
- What are your exercise goals (short, medium and long term)? Write them down! Make yourself accountable.
- What’s the one thing you can do today to get you started?
- What physical activities do you like most?
- Can you make them part of your schedule? What programs best fit your schedule?
- How can you adjust your schedule to make time for exercise?
- Do you prefer to exercise alone or as part of a group?
Utilising the questions properly should help you discover your best route to success. Remember exercise can be challenging in the beginning but there is no reason it shouldn’t soon become fun, position yourself to embrace what works best for you!
When you consider that by just committing a half hour a day or less to exercise, you can change your whole life in such a profound way, it really does seem like a no brainer! Live longer, feel happier, have better relationships, and empower yourself to chase your dreams, whatever they may be!
They say every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Take that first step today and I assure you, it might be the most important step you take in your life!
For further information on Dr Mark Rowe's health and wellbeing information visit www.doctormarkrowe.com
Twitter & Facebook @drmarkrowe
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