At this time of COVID-19 lockdown, it is particularly important to make the effort. We have more time on our hands, which can be usefully utilised with physical activity to keep healthy, boost our immunity to disease and, together with efforts to eat healthily and moderately, help overcome the tendency to put on extra weight from overeating.
Here is a list of nine brief insights into the benefits of exercise and physical activity, which might motivate you to get going. Always consult your doctor before embarking on an exercise routine, particularly if you suffer from a medical or physical condition or if you are of an older age group.
1. Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease. By strengthening the heart muscles and improving the circulation, exercise lowers the risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks. It lowers cholesterol levels and it can also lower high blood pressure.
2. Exercise decreases the risk of developing type II diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and helping insulin to work better. In diabetics, exercise can help manage the condition.
3. Along with a healthy diet, exercise helps control body weight and prevents obesity by increasing the heart rate and metabolic rate and thereby burns more energy. Exercise will help you lose weight if you burn more calories then you take in.
4. Psychological benefits and benefits in mental health. Exercise gives a feeling of well being because a moderate level of exercise causes the release of endorphins – the "feel good" chemicals - from the brain. These trigger a positive boost in mood and contribute to reducing stress and warding off anxiety. This is certainly a benefit in our more demanding lifestyles, but it also contributes effectively to the management of clinical conditions such as anxiety states and depression. Exercise also boosts self-esteem and improves sleep patterns, both of which contribute to wellbeing.
5. Weight bearing exercise such as walking, jogging and dancing strengthens bone and helps prevent loss of bone density (osteoporosis) later on in life, particularly in women who are more susceptible to bone loss after menopause.
6. In women, aerobic exercise (one that increases the heart rate) such as cycling, walking and swimming, contributes significantly to the management of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It improves symptoms such as fatigue and emotional changes, and may help to reduce the pain.
7. In men, exercise can improve sexual health because it may lower the risk of developing erectile dysfunction. In those who already have erectile dysfunction, it may help to improve function.
8. Exercise has also been associated with a decrease in some cancers such as colon, breast, uterine and lung cancers.
9. Last but not least, exercise can help smokers to quit smoking by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can also help limit the weight gain that can be experienced when one stops smoking.
Choose whatever you enjoy, be it a sport or an exercise modality. Be it outdoors or indoors, particularly at this time of COVID-19 lockdown, make the most of any facilities available to you such as a stationary bike/spinner or a treadmill.
Fit in the activity to a time that works well with your work and family schedule so that it becomes part of your routine not a chore.
Build up gradually to your ability, but build up. With regular exercise, fitness and stamina both increase. Together with the feel good sensation you will, given time, be encouraged to keep going.
Be active with others if you can. A companion may make exercise more enjoyable and more motivating. Consider joining an exercise class or an activity group or team. At this time lots of indoor sessions are being offered online and on TV.
Make exercise more fun. Listen to music, watch TV, overcome boredom by changing and mixing your activities. You will feel much better for it and you will be increasing your chances of living longer by decreasing your risk of leading causes of death such as heart disease and cancer.