How many times have you been told that you need to do some exercise?
How many times have you responded with a “yeah, I know” and then done nothing, or done somethings once?
How many times have you actually done something about it?
Do you know why exercise is good for us?
There are are number ways that we might benefit from exercise. I’ve broken them into 3 categories: physical benefits (it’s good for our bodies), neurological benefits (it’s good for our brains) and emotional benefits (it’s good for our mood).
Physical benefits (our body)
- exercise improves muscle tone and strength
- exercise improves endurance
- exercise can improve the condition of our joints and strengthen our bones
- exercise can increase our metabolism & burn readily available or stored energy (fat)
- exercise will improve the efficiency of our heart (a muscle) and lungs – our cardiovascular system
Neurological benefits (our brain)
- increases blood availability in the brain so can improve the functioning of the brain
- increases the size of the hippocampus (this part of the brain assists in regulating emotion and also plays a part in long-term memory)
- causes serotonin to be released in the brain (serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is implicated in mood – more information about neurotransmitters)
- exercise causes anadamine to be released into the brain – anandamine is an endocannabinoid and gives us a natural high (endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and give as a high… THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) binds to cannabinoid receptors – more information can be found here)
- exercise can improve our mood due to a change in the availability of neurotransmitters in the brain (as noted above)
- increased release & availability of serotonin (more information can be found here)
- increased release of anandamide
- exercise can reduce anxiety (due to the expenditure of energy and release of noradrenaline – more information here or here)
- exercise can improve social interactions by reducing anxiety and improving mood
- exercise has the potential to increase the number of social interactions – exercising with others can be a motivator, just as social interaction can improve mood and potentially reduce anxiety
And here’s a nice little TEDTalk about the benefits of exercise by Dr Wendy Suzuki.
And do you know how much exercise is recommended?
According to the Australian Government Department of Health…
- Sedentary behaviour should be minimised across the lifespan.
- Children aged 5–12 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day. And exercises to strengthen muscles and bones should occur on at least 3 days a week.
- Young people aged 13–17 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day. And exercises to strengthen muscles and bones should occur on at least 3 days a week.
- Adults (aged 18+) should accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week. And exercises to strengthen muscles and bones should be included on at least 2 days.
- Older people (aged 65+) should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days. However, those currently doing more should maintain their activity and those doing less should gradually build it up to 30 minutes a day.
So… now you know what exercise can do for us… how do you implement this?
Exercise can be hard… but it doesn’t have to be. Actually doing exercise can be perceived as a lot of hard work… and those guidelines above could be interpreted as too much hard work. But actually it’s all about being active for at least 30 minutes a day… and it can be accumulated over the day.
So this maybe means getting up and going out to do something, anything, for 10 minutes 3 times a day, which could be getting off the tram or bus a stop early or parking further away from your destination and then walking.
It might be putting on your favourite music and dancing around the house and getting your heart rate up. This has a double effect because music has been found to improve our mood among other benefits.
And Sport Australia (The Australian Sports Commission) has just published their National Sport Plan 2030. One of the key programs that seems to have come out of this is the Find Your 30 program. There are a number of suggestions provided to find your 30 minutes of physical exercise a day as well as a nice summary of the benefits of exercise for our long term mental and physical health.
If you’d like to speak with me about finding your motivation to move, learning about how to manage anxiety and worry or mood disturbances please contact me here.
And if you know someone who might benefit from this article, please share it via Facebook or email.
Psychology Today – Why it pays brain dividends to stay fit in middle age
Psychology Today – Lifting weights may help depression