10 Good Reasons Exercise Is Important

by Randell Allen on January 2, 2011

10 reason exercise is importantExercise may be defined as activity sufficiently vigorous to raise breathing to a level where conversation is labored and sweating is noticeable on temperate days(1).

The two forms of exercise referenced in the article are aerobic exercise and resistance training (weight training).

  • Aerobic exercise: using your large muscle groups in a rhythmic fashion for an extended period of time (biking, running, jogging, vigorous walking etc…). Aerobic exercise is performed at a moderate intensity.
  • Resistance training (weight training) exercise: Using weights, bands, or your body weight to force muscular contraction.

1. Exercise elevates mood: “I just feel better when I exercise.”

I have head this statement time and time again throughout my career of nutrition and personal training.

Evidently, the fact that exercise improves mood is not all in your head. Exercise seems to elevate mood by stimulating the release of endorphins (serotonin, epinephrine), which produce feelings of positive emotion.

Studies have shown marked improvement in anxiety, stress reduction, positive mood, self-esteem, and cognitive function all related to consistent exercise1.

2.  Exercise lowers blood pressure and heart rate (stress relief)

Think about what happens when we are stressed out? Often, our heart rate elevates and blood pressure rises. Consistent exercise provides the opposite effect by lowering blood pressure and resting heart rate, which may further help reduce stress.

One of the less tangible but most important benefits of exercise is experiencing the positive emotions related to self-care. You get the feeling that you are taking care of yourself, which helps build self-esteem.

Elevated blood pressure is correlated with heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure. Therefore, reducing your blood pressure cuts your risk factors for developing health problems.

3. Exercise helps fight diseases related to obesity

Men with higher fitness levels have a lower mortality rate compared to those with inactive lifestyle. Type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke and high blood pressure are correlated with obesity, or high body fat levels.

In one study, men with low fitness levels who improved their fitness level to moderate, cut their mortality rate by 44%. This improvement in fitness levels (low to moderate) equals approximately the same health benefits as quitting smoking1.

4. Exercise elevates metabolism

Of all the factors affecting your metabolism: Age, height, weight, temperature, gender, and activity level exercise is the one activity, which you can control.

The more strenuous the exercise, the more your metabolism potentially stays elevated for hours or days afterward. An elevated metabolism helps protect against positive energy balance (overeating). In other words, you can eat more without gaining weight.

Moreover, the loss of lean tissue, about 5 pounds per decade after the age of 25, results in a lowering of your metabolism. Exercising can significantly reduce the loss of muscle associated with aging.

Conversely, your metabolism will elevate for every pound of muscle you gain.

5. Resistance training helps improve bone density

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by weak, brittle bones. People with osteoporosis are susceptible to breaks and fractures. An estimated 50% of all women and 25% of all men over 50 years of age will suffer an osteoporotic fracture within their lifetime2.

Frequent weight training sessions can help protect against osteoporosis by promoting improve in bone mass and strength.

Weight training works by causing bone deformation, or strain to bone. Your body adapts by building stronger bones to handle the force.

Aerobic activity also helps improve bone density by the impact created by your body weight with the ground.

Although dependent on your fitness level, higher intensity training (aerobic and weights) tends to produce the most impact of building stronger bones.

6. Resistance training improves body composition

Your body composition is your lean mass to body fat ratio. Lean mass includes muscles, bones, organs, skin, and connective tissue.  Your fat mass is your total body weight minus your lean mass.

Resistance training helps build muscle and reduce body fat by elevating your metabolism. After several weeks of weight training, the average change in body composition is approximately a 2-4 pounds gain in muscle and a four-pound drop in body fat in older adults.

Changes in body composition can improve your physical appearance, reduce your risk of injury, and improve your posture.

7. Resistance training improves muscular skeletal development in children

I often here people say that resistance training is not good for younger people. I have even heard people say that weight training stunts the growth of preadolescents.

I always say the same thing: There is no scientific proof to this.

First of all, who would volunteer their children for a study to determine if weight training stunts growth? Secondly, what scientist would perform this experiment? These studies do not exist.

The only studies that exist on the affects of weight training on younger adults have been positive. A study exploring the affect of resistance training on 71 girls ranging from 9-10 years old split the girls into to groups. One group weight trained, the other group did not.

The girls who weight trained developed 4 times as much bone density. The weight training group also developed more muscle mass, strength, and less body fat.

Worth mentioning is there was no difference in the girl’s growth patterns, as far as, height was concerned.

8. Resistance training improves balance and stability in the elderly

The average amount of muscle gained over a 2-month period for untrained adults, youth, and the elderly is 2 to 4 pounds. On average, strength increases 40 to 60% after 12 weeks2.

Age does not appear to be a limiting factor, as older adults appear to be able to build muscle and strength at comparable rates.

Loss of muscle mass, strength, and bone density increased the risk of fractures related to falling, especially for the elderly.

Weight training can reduce the risk of falls by increasing muscle and skeletal integrity, which helps fascilitate better balance.

9. Resistance training improves gastric emptying time

After four months of weight training, a group of middle to older aged men increased gastrointestinal transit time by 56%. Food staying in the digestive track for shorter periods may help decrease the risk of colon cancer.

10. Resistance training can stimulate the release of your growth hormone naturally

Growth hormone is a hormone secreted by your pituitary gland and peaks during adolescence. After adolescence, growth hormones levels tend to steadily fall. Growth hormone stimulates muscle mass, loss of body fat, and collagen (which contributes to youthful skin).

High intensity weight training, multiple sets at 80 to 90% of your 1 repetition maximum, is the necessary intensity to increase your growth hormone activity.

BONUS.  Resistance training reduces low back pain

Low back pain is the number contributor to job related disability. It is estimated the American spend 50 billions dollars a year on low back related problems. Strengthen the low back muscles (spinal extensors) though a series of daily back exercise focusing on high repetitions/low weight (endurance) appears to be the most productive remedy for prevention and treatment back pain.

Resources:

1. Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids (macronutrients) (2005) Food and Nutrition Board (FNB)

2. Ace Personal Training Manuel (Volume 4)

2. Strength training accelerates gastrointestinal transit in middle aged and older men

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 24, 415-419

3. Campbell et al (1994) Increase energy requirements and changes in body composition with resistance training in  older adults ajcn, 60,167-175

4.NCCPT Personal Training Manuel (Volume 1)

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