Regular physical activity has long been known to have an immensely positive impact on our health. It reduces the chances of illnesses such as heart disease, many cancers, stroke and diabetes as well as contributing to muscle mass and bone strength.
The exercise we take should vary depending on factors such as our age and physical health. Whilst vigorous 60-minute spin classes may suit some, not all of us feel that we are quite at that stage or ever will be. The department of health recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more per week. Moderate activities are those which make the heart beat faster and cause you to breath harder but still allow you to have a conversation, these include cycling, brisk walking or gentle swimming. For example, 5 x 30 minute cycle rides per week would be one way to achieve this target. 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise can achieve the same result, these include running or sports such as football or rowing.
Like any other muscle the heart will become more efficient with exercise. The bloods ability to transport oxygen around the body is enhanced, blood pressure can be improved and healthy cholesterol levels maintained. Regular exercise increases the levels of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood which play a role in maintaining a healthy heart and reducing the risk stroke and heart attack.
In addition to aerobic exercises such as those mentioned here, guidelines state that muscle building exercise should be taken on two or more days per week. Examples of this are weightlifting, exercises using your own body weight or heavy gardening. These weight bearing exercises also have a positive effect on bone health. Osteoporosis is a term which describes a thinning of the bone. It affects millions of people, in the UK and can result in fragile bones and ultimately fractures. Regular weightbearing exercise helps to keep bones strong and healthy. It is particularly important for women approaching the menopause and older men to ensure exercises which require the bones to bear your weight such as walking and Yoga are undertaken frequently.
While the physical benefits of exercise are clear, empirical evidence continues to illustrate the positive affect being physically active can have on our mental health. Current research shows regular exercise can assist to relieve symptoms of depression, promote better sleep and maintain positive mood and by making our bodies healthier we may also enjoy better self-esteem.
There are clear benefits of leading an active lifestyle in whatever stage of life you are at and there are multiple ways to fit activity into a daily routine. Any increase in physical activity will have a positive effect and along with a healthy diet and eliminating other risk factors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption will reduce the risk of multiple serious illnesses while improving fitness and mental health.