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The importance of regular exercise for your health

The importance of regular exercise for your health

Regular exercise offers numerous health benefits that can improve nearly every aspect of your well-being. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Strengthening your heart and improving circulation, which lowers your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and heart attack
  • Helping control weight and prevent obesity when combined with a healthy diet
  • Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity
  • Boosting mood, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improving sleep quality
  • Maintaining strong bones and muscles, especially as you age, and reducing the risk of falls
  • Lowering the risk of certain cancers like colon, breast, uterine, and lung cancer
  • Improving memory, cognitive abilities, and brain function
  • Improving sexual health and function
  • Exercise strengthens the heart and improves circulation, lowering the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
  • Exercise has been shown to boost mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep quality.
  • Being physically active on a regular basis is associated with a lower risk of premature death from any cause.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. Activities like brisk walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing are great options to get started.

Even small amounts of physical activity provide health benefits, so the key is to find ways to incorporate more movement into your daily routine. Consult with a healthcare provider to develop an exercise plan that works best for your individual needs and fitness level.

How does regular exercise impact mental health?

Frequent exercise has many positive effects on mental health:

  • Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise can be as effective as medication or therapy for mild-to-moderate depression by helping to regulate stress hormones and release mood-boosting neurotransmitters.
  • Improves self-esteem and self-confidence. Physical activity has been shown to positively influence self-esteem and self-worth across all age groups.
  • Enhances cognitive function and memory. Exercise can improve working memory, attention, and processing speed, and may help reduce age-related cognitive decline.
  • Relieves stress and promotes relaxation. Physical activity can be an effective way to manage stress by reducing the body’s stress response and muscle tension.
  • Boosts mood and energy levels. Even short bouts of exercise can increase feelings of enthusiasm, alertness, and calmness.
  • Improves sleep quality. Frequent exercise can improve the quality and speed of your sleep.
  • Lowers risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. Physical activity may lower the risk of dementia by 20–30%, according to studies.

The key is to find physical activities you enjoy and can stick with consistently, even if it’s just 10-30 minutes per day. Consulting a healthcare provider can help you develop an exercise plan tailored to your individual needs and fitness level.

What are the best exercises for reducing stress?

Among the most effective stress-reduction exercises are:

  • Yoga – Yoga involves postures with controlled breathing, which can help you relax and manage stress and anxiety. It triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of relaxation and sleep.
  • Strength training – Strength training increases endorphins that make you feel good and gives you a sense of achievement. Studies found it reduced worry and anxiety symptoms in young adults. Bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups are effective.
  • Walking in the outdoors – The stress-processing regions of the brain become less active after a 60-minute walk in the outdoors.
  • Swimming – Swimming releases neurochemicals that make the body feel good and is more effective than running at reducing cortisol levels. The repetitive strokes give the mind something to focus on.
  • Dancing – Dancing for at least 150 minutes per week reduced stress, depression, and anxiety in studies. The physical activity and social connection help relieve stress.
  • Tai chi – A series of flowing movements and breathing techniques, tai chi calms the mind and conditions the body. It has many health benefits like lowering blood pressure and easing arthritis symptoms.

The key is finding activities you enjoy that get you moving. Exercising outdoors provides greater stress relief than indoors. Gentle exercises like yoga and tai chi that regulate breathing are especially beneficial. But any activity you can stick with consistently will help manage stress.

The recommended amount of exercise for overall health varies slightly between different health organizations, but the general consensus is:

  • Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a combination of both.
  • Aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week, in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
  • In addition to aerobic exercise, adults should do muscle-strengthening activities involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week.
  • Adults should perform 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week to reap even greater health benefits.
  • Every day, kids and teenagers should engage in moderate-to-intense physical activity for at least 60 minutes.

The key is to start slowly and gradually increase the duration, frequency and intensity of exercise over time. Being physically active is beneficial for your health in any amount, and the more you do, the better.

What are the signs that I’m over exercising?

Here are the key signs that you may be over exercising:

Physical Symptoms

  • A plateau in workout progress or decrease in performance
  • Excess sweating or overheating
  • Heavy, stiff, or sore muscles that don’t recover
  • Increase in workout-related injuries like sprains, tendinitis, or joint pain
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Frequent injuries when exercising
  • Cramps, bloating, and constipation
  • Problems with coordination and concentration
  • Decreased strength

Emotional Symptoms

  • Depression or experiencing depression following exercise
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feeling unmotivated or less interested in exercise
  • Mood changes like irritability, confusion, and anger
  • Poor academic or work performance
  • Trouble concentrating

Other Signs

  • Disordered eating
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle, like interrupted periods
  • Chronic conditions like colds and respiratory infections
  • Needing to do more intense and more frequent exercise to feel the mental health benefits
  • Exercise taking over your life and having an impact on your obligations, relationships, job, and hobbies
  • Feeling a compulsive need to exercise
  • Exercising in secret or hiding how much you’re doing

If you experience a combination of these physical, emotional and behavioral signs, it may be an indication that you are overtraining and need to adjust your exercise routine to allow for proper recovery. Seek advice from a medical expert if symptoms continue.

 

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