Why is exercise important?

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Exercise not only changes your body, it changes your mind, attitude and mood. We all know we need to do it, so here are some key reasons why and top tips to help you fit it into your busy day.

Whether you are trying to lose weight or not, regular exercise will bring immediate health benefits as well as improving the quality of your life in the long-term.

On a biological level, exercise:

  • Helps the cardiovascular system to work more efficiently by increasing the heart rate and improving the body’s ability to use oxygen
  • Keeps your body at a healthy weight by using up calories and increasing the body’s metabolism (1)
  • People who exercise tend to choose a healthier eating pattern (2) (3)
  • Also, if you eat healthily you will be more inclined to want to exercise. The more intense your physical activity, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn than you consume (i.e. you create a calorie deficit), the more weight you will lose
  • Improves your self-esteem, body image and self-confidence (4)
  • Maintains muscle strength, mass and endurance so that you have more energy to tackle everyday life
  • Supports joint health. Weight bearing exercises like walking, jumping and running help maintain bone mass and can lower the chances of developing osteoporosis as you get older
  • Prevents or lowers the risk of many diseases, e.g. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, cancer (5)
  • Improves digestion, preventing constipation

On a mental level, exercise:

  • Improves mood by releasing feel good chemicals such as endorphins so you will feel happier
  • Helps you to cope with stress as exercise gives you a chance to unwind, reduce anxiety and gives you time out from your to-do list!
  • Improves memory by increasing the size of the hippocampus which is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory (6)
  • Exercise also improves blood flow to the brain resulting in improved mental clarity and better memory. Exercise will help to slow down ageing and the risks of dementia (7)
  • Exercise improves sleep because it promotes the onset of sleep. However, exercise in the evenings can keep you awake because it will cause an increase in energy. So, if you suffer from insomnia, do your exercise in the mornings to gain the full benefit (8)

 

How can I make exercise fun and enjoyable?

People often stop doing exercise because they lose interest and motivation. So, if you feel bored with the activity you are doing, try something new that you will enjoy. This way you will have the greatest chance of sticking at it.

Join a new gym, exercise class, dance class, swimming or tennis club which can be sociable and a chance to make new friends. If you aren’t able to join a gym/class, there are many great DVDs to work-out to. Walking clubs, bike riding or hiking trails are also great alternatives.

Some people like running on their own because they like the time to sort out their thoughts and get into their zone, whilst others like to be with other people who will encourage them and urge them on. Running clubs, such as ‘Running Adventures’ can provide good support as they hold runs in the great outdoors.

If you are not really into exercise, you don’t have to become a marathon runner or gym bunny to benefit, just find something you love!

Take some inspiration from Challenge Sophie, an adventurer, athlete and motivational speaker, “the link for me between exercise and motivation is finding something I love. I love a new challenge that gives me a reason to train, I love meeting people and making friends through trying new sports and I love the feeling of training; how I immerse myself in the work of it and forget about everything else.”

 

How can I make sure I stick to an exercise plan?

  • The KEY is to find something you enjoy!
  • Make it a habit
  • Book it into your diary like an appointment -  it will really help you do it
  • Don’t see it as a chore
  • Treat yourself to some new workout clothes and trainers
  • Make some music playlists
  • Find a friend to exercise with so that you can encourage each other 
  • Set yourself a goal which will be personal to you, such as walk 10,000 steps a day, enter a run, say a 5k or half marathon, and do it for charity, do some daily exercises at home, lose a dress size, whatever it may be, a goal is a great way to motivate yourself

 

How much is enough? What does enough exercise look like?

  • Exercise on a regular basis is key
  • About 30 minutes, 5 days a week will increase your health and lifespan and, although people lead busy lifestyles, all it takes is half an hour
  • Think about a 30 minute walk every day - maybe you could take a walk outside at lunchtime which would be a good way to get some exercise in the middle of your day; or get off the tube one or two stops earlier; take the stairs; garden; walk the dog - they all count! Get a fitness tracker to monitor your steps - aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps a day

 

Why can it be so hard to fit exercise into my daily routine?

  • You may have lost motivation or you don’t have anyone to train with
  • You have forgotten the importance of exercise and its impact on long-term health
  • Almost everyone is less active nowadays, jobs are more sedentary and modern technology means that people spend more time in front of screens

So, try to incorporate exercise in some shape or form into your daily life: your body and mind will FEEL BETTER for it.

Photo credit: Running Adventures http://www.runningadventures.uk

Running Adventures offer a variety of services such as coaching, both online and face to face; guided trail adventures and training weekends. They have a real passion for all things running.

Sophie Radcliffe, is an endurance athlete, blogger, motivational speaker, http://www.challengesophie.com