Why Should I Exercise?
We have all heard that exercise has many positive effects on our health, but what does this actually mean?
When most people hear “exercise is good for you” they think that it helps you lose weight and improves your fitness. Although these things are true, there are many mental, and physical benefits to exercise.
Historically, research looking into the benefits of exercise has been primarily focused towards its impact on improving disease and physical health. However, in the last 15 years or so there has been an increasing amount of research into how exercise can help in the treatment of mental health. Researchers have found that exercise not only improves mood, but can also reduce anxiety, increase resiliency to stress, improve sleep, and make it easier to cope with everyday life.
Exercise is physically beneficial in countless ways, some of the most commonly studied physical benefits of exercise include improvements in: heart and blood vessels, muscles, bones, weight loss, and pain relief. Let’s unpack each of these to understand more about how they are influenced by exercise.
Heart and Blood Vessels
As you exercise, your heart gets stronger, and your muscles develop more blood vessels. This not only allows your heart to pump more blood per beat, but also lowers your blood pressure.
Muscles are made up of many muscle fibers, as you exercise your brain learns how to send impulses to your muscles quicker and more efficiently which in turn, increases strength and improves muscle control. This makes it easier to keep exercising and do activities of everyday life.
Bones get stronger when load is applied. If you’ve ever heard the saying “use it or lose it” this applies directly to bones. Bones love to be loaded, this is how they get stronger. When you exercise you put stress on your bones, and they adapt/strengthen themselves to deal with that stress.
We have all heard that exercise can help you lose weight, but how does it actually help? When you exercise, your body’s metabolism and your appetite changes, this causes you to burn more calories and therefore lose weight. Additionally, you will start to gain more muscle and lose body fat, this not only takes load off your joints, but makes it easier to do everyday activities and lowers your risk of other disease such as diabetes.
Finally, exercise can help with pain relief. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, these endorphins act as a type of pain relief, reducing pain and increasing feelings of wellness.
So, now we understand why we should be exercising, but how do we get started? A common misconception about exercise is that we need to go crazy and start lifting as heavy as we can at the gym or running 5km every day. The current Canadian exercise recommendations are: 30 min of physical activity/day for a minimum of 150 min/week. Physical activity can be anything from walking your dog, and going for a swim, to vacuuming your house and planting flowers. The 30 min can be split up into 10 min bouts and should be at least 20 min long twice/week. Exercise and physical activity should be slightly difficult but it’s always a good idea to start slowly if you have not been physically active in the past.
What if Exercise Hurts?
When you start exercising you may feel some muscle soreness and joint pain. This soreness can happen 24-48h after exercising and is known as “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” or DOMS. This soreness and pain may last a while, but it is not dangerous to keep exercising. However, it is important to listen to your body during exercise and not to let pain go above the acceptable limit. As a general rule of thumb, pain with an intensity of 2/10 is considered safe, and 2-5/10 is considered acceptable. Pain intensity should not exceed 5/10, if it does you should decrease the intensity of your exercise and take a break or change the activity you are doing.
Registered Physiotherapist, Co-Owner of Thrive Now Physiotherapy