The Importance of Physical Activity – The Foundation of Health
Time to read: 3 mins
In today’s society, which has become sedentary and convenience based, we need to fit in time for exercise. Back in cavemen days, our ancestors wouldn’t need to schedule workout time - simply chasing down your dinner or chopping down some wood for a fire would be your exercise and living all rolled into one. Nowadays we have a huge selection of food all in a store, which we can cook by simply shoving in our oven.
Couple this with the rise in technology and the increase in office/computer based jobs and most of us simply don’t get enough exercise in our daily living.
Hence the reason why society came up with these weird and wonderful creations called gyms and which now provide us with such a variety of ways to exercise there is bound to be at least one element everybody can find which they like. But why do we need to exercise? What are the benefits? Some of the major benefits are considered below.
Exercise reduces stress
Exercising releases a trigger of hormones which make us feel good. Endorphins etc. Research has shown physical activity reduces psychological stress and improves overall wellbeing (Norris, 1992).
In psychology research, happiness has been analysed and the elements important for making us happy were considered. It demonstrated happiness down into the 3 P’s – Pleasure, Passion and Purpose. Pleasure was the most basic of happiness levels, and included things such as buying new items or getting a new hairdo. Passion was a level higher and encompasses doing things that you desire and feel are important. Purpose is the highest level of happiness and can include things such as feeling part of a family, team or helping people.
Exercise can be a huge part of happiness as it can add to all of the 3 P’s of happiness. At the end of a hard workout you feel pleasure, continued effort in the gym or sport gives you a passion for it which fuels your desire to continue. Being a part of a gym team or sport team can give people an additional purpose to their lives and make them feel part of a community. All these elements accumulate into greater feelings of happiness in daily life
Exercise helps our immune system
As a nation we are becoming more and more unhealthy which puts a strain on our health services and contributes to a reduction of productivity at work. A lack of physical activity leaves our immune system sluggish and puts us at greater risk of various chronic diseases.
The increase in time which we spent sitting increases our risk of heart problems (Mason et al 2002). The good news is you don’t have to work out to the level of an Olympian to get the immune system benefits of exercise. Research has shown even moderate intensity daily exercise reduces sick days by half (Nieman and Pedersen, 1999). Moderate exercise can include things such as cycling to work, swimming or a brisk walk.
Further research has shown both walking and vigorous exercise are associated with a substantial decrease in the risk of cardiovascular issues; further supporting the notion you don’t need to go crazy every day to get the immune system benefits of exercise. Regularity, rather than intensity is key. So whatever you are doing, make sure you keep doing it.
Exercise makes us more useful
Exercise can be used to make us stronger. Stronger people are more useful in all aspects of life. Moving furniture around? No problem. Pushing a broken down car? Easy. Strength really is an important function of the human body and making yourself stronger will stand you in good stead for most things in life. Not only that, building your strength up can reduce joint pain and ensures your body is moving in the best way possible. Strengthening up weak muscles reduces injury risk, and gives you a better quality of life in the longer term. How many older people do you know who are slowed down by niggles or joint pains? Keeping yourself as strong as possible is one of the keys to long term wellness.
Strength training involves some sort of resistance- starting off with just body weight can be enough to stimulate a strength adaptation before progressing on to external resistance.
So if you needed any more convincing that exercise is important, hopefully now you have it. Even if you are not a gym fan, there is enough exercise options out there for even the most picky of participants to find something they like. The abundance of different exercise classes, sports or methods available now means there really is no excuse. So get out there, exercise and be healthy.
Norris, R, Carroll, D and Cochrane, R (1992). Effects of physical activity and exercise training on psychological stress and well being in adolescent populations. Journal of Psychosomatic Research.
Baum and Contrada (2011). The handbook of stress science: Biology, psychology and health. Springer Publishing.
Nieman, D and Pedersen, B. (1999). Exercise and immune function. Sports Medicine.
Booth, F, Gordon, S, Carlson, C, and Hamilton, M (2000). Waging war on modern chronic diseases: Primary prevention through exercise biology. Journal of Applied Physiology.