The health benefits of physical activity

Regular participation in physical activity is associated with numerous physical and psychological benefits, which are outlined below.

ConditionRole of Physical Activity
Overall mortalityHigher levels of regular activity are associated with lower mortality rates for both older and younger adults.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD)Regular physical activity decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, particularly coronary heart disease mortality. Physical activity also reduces the risk of high blood pressure.
CancerRegular physical activity is associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer. There is some evidence that inactivity may increase the risk of breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and melanoma.
OsteoarthritisPhysical activity is not associated with joint damage or the development of osteoarthritis. In those with osteoarthritis, exercise training can reduce impairment and improve function.
OsteoporosisWeight-bearing physical activity can reduce the loss of bone mass associated with age.
FallingPhysical activity and strength training is likely to reduce the risk of falling in older adults.
ObesityInactivity contributes to the development of obesity. Physical activity may favourably affect body fat distribution. Regular activity protects from CVD, even in the absence of weight loss, increase lean tissue and therefore basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy expended while at rest) which could improve body composition.
Mental healthPhysical activity appears to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improves mood. Regular physical activity may reduce the risk of developing depression.
Health-related quality of lifePhysical activity appears to improve quality of life by enhancing psychological well-being and by improving physical function in persons compromised by poor health. This includes everyday functions such as lifting, carrying, climbing stairs and standing from a chair unaided.

Diseases of inactivity (hypokinesis) are the main cause of death in the UK & many developed nations as per the World Health Organisation.

Advice on physical activity

A well-rounded physical activity program includes both aerobic exercise and strength training exercise. This blend helps maintain or improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness. Regular physical activity will provide more health benefits than sporadic, high intensity workouts, so choose exercises you are likely to enjoy and that you can incorporate into your daily schedule.

Aerobic exercise – The Department of Health & Social Care recommends that every adult should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (or a combination of both) each week in order to maintain health. Moderate intensity activity would include, brisk walking, gentle jogging, cycling or swimming, dancing, gardening or housework – an activity which will increase both breathing and heart rate, but not so intense that you cannot hold a conversation. Vigorous inensity activity would include running, competitive sports or walking up the stairs – an activity which results in fast breathing and a difficulty in talking. It is good to note that most moderate activities can become vigorous if you increase your effort!

Head to your local parkrun where you can walk, jog or run 5km for free!

Strength training – In addition to aerobic exercise, strength training should be performed on a minimum of two days each week, with a variety of exercises that target all of the major muscle groups. This type of training can be accomplished by using bodyweight, resistance bands, free weights or medicine balls. Strength training will help to keep muscles, bones and joints strong.

Additional health benefits can be gained through regular participation in activity that is of longer duration or of more vigorous intensity. In fact, it is now recognised that a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to health and there are substantial health benefits to be gained from becoming more active at lower levels of activity than previously thought (American College of Sports Medicine).

It should be stressed that many of the beneficial effects of exercise may diminish within two weeks if exercise is substantially reduced, and the benefits will disappear in 2 to 8 months if exercise is not resumed. Writing down a training plan is great for motivation, accountability and will provide you with satisfaction in life.

If you would like advice or assistance in designing a training plan, nutrition planor lifestyle schedule then please contact me.

The bottom line – doing some activity is better than none and every minute of activity benefits health.

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