So it seems that a lack of exercise may be more detrimental to health than carrying around a few extra pounds – and I’m not talking money here. A large study carried out by the University of Cambridge basically concluded that getting our backsides off the sofa and out into the fresh air is a really important step we can all take to improving our health. If you want to read the study then click here.
So what are some of the benefits of exercise? People often think about it only in terms of weight management, but there are so many other important benefits. One is that it helps keep the cells in our bodies sensitive to insulin. When our cells aren’t as sensitive as they should be to insulin, we can end up with high blood glucose levels, which is associated with type two diabetes. Being active also increases our high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is helpful for maintaining healthy cholesterol balance, and decreases excess triglycerides (fats).
Exercise also affects our mood. It can help with releasing tension as physical activity stimulates lowers cortisol levels (one of the major stress hormones) and increases endorphins. I also think just the action of getting out and about into the fresh air, or hitting the machines at the gym is going to leave you feeling positive about taking active steps to improve your health and fitness, so no surprise if this boosts your confidence and self-esteem.
It’s also a great way to help regulate sleep, just don’t exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energized to fall asleep. It usually takes a couple of hours for your body temperature to cool down fully after exercise, and it is this cooling process and drop in core temperature that can leave us feeling sleepy.
And if all those reasons fail to get you going, exercise can also help spark up your sex life! If you feel tired all the time, or completely out of shape, then it’s not surprising you might not feel all that frisky. But there’s more to it than that. Regular physical activity can lead to enhanced arousal for women. And men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don’t exercise.
But as usual, the problem is that just knowing something is good for us doesn’t necessarily make it easier to do. And let’s face it; did anyone ever really think that a bit of exercise was going to be a bad thing?
So at this point I should probably be thanking my parents for dragging me and my sisters out every weekend for long walks and bike rides. I really did detest going at the time, not because of the effort involved, but because it seemed like a pretty dull way to spend the day. However, like many things in life, if we are exposed to activities enough when we are younger, then when we are old enough to make our own decisions we often find it turns out we actually like doing it! That’s definitely the case with me and walking – I love nothing more than getting out and stretching my legs, whether going for a walk in beautiful countryside or pounding the pavements of Northwest London.
The good news is, for all those people who see it as an effort just to get from the chair to the fridge, exercise doesn’t have to involve hour long workouts at the gym. Great if you want to do this, but one really easy way to get the ball rolling is to buy a pedometer (or check to see if your phone has this function). What you want to be aiming for is 10,000 steps a day as a minimum, and then increase from there. This isn’t going to get you to iron man competition shape any time soon, but it will keep your heart ticking along nicely for a little while longer.
Here’s a smoothie to look forward to post exercise:
- 1 glass coconut milk
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 banana
- 1 handful baby leaf spinach
- 1 handful frozen berries
- 5-6 ice cubes
Sources and further information: www.mayoclinic.com, Anita Bean (2009) The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition