Simon Donovan is a personal trainer at University of Birmingham Sport & Fitness, and takes a holistic approach to health management, through exercise, recovery, diet, sleep and stress control. Here, he discusses the top reasons why exercise is so beneficial to our health.
Despite the fact that exercise is a great way to increase your body’s energy expenditure, it is also a great way to improve your productivity, alertness and mental focus throughout the day. The increased energy levels that occur as a result of the bout of exercise are also likely to lead to more active habits throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, or walking to speak to colleagues instead of emailing. This increased activity will then confer physical and mental benefits in a positive, self-perpetuating cycle.
The endorphins released during physical activity can help us see the world in a brighter light and enhance mental wellbeing.
Physical activity can help us to improve the length and the quality of our sleep which will in turn have further contributions to our health and wellbeing. Whilst there is no absolute figure we should aim for in terms of sleep duration, most people will find that they fall somewhere between 6-9 hours a night. Quality is certainly more important than quantity.
Likewise, regular physical activity can help us to manage life stressors much better, through both release of endorphins and as a distraction technique. As discussed, exercise can help you achieve a more positive outlook as well as improve sleep quality, both of which are important in managing stressors. It is also thought that exercise can help to improve our ability to activate the control centres in our brain and the nervous system, which helps us rationalise situations – very helpful when we are under pressure.
Increased physical activity levels can reduce body fat and increase muscle tissue – contributing towards an overall positive body composition profile. Body fat percentage is a more useful tool when looking at body composition than body weight alone. The Gym at Sport & Fitness offers Muscle and Weight Analysis tests which can assess your body fat percentage.
Regular activity can improve our physical capabilities, enhancing muscle strength as well as overall fitness and stamina. This can make daily tasks much easier and increase our quality of life. This is particularly important as we get older. The ageing process results in the loss of muscle tissue, and exercise can help offset some of this muscle loss, helping to preserve strength and function.
Exercise is one of the most powerful preventative medicines we have in reducing our risk of developing diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease. It can also be beneficial in managing and rehabilitating these conditions, so exercise can be preventative as well as useful for recovery.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that we aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week – that’s only 30 minutes for five days a week! This is the minimum and ideally we should be aiming for more. Walking more – whether it be taking the stairs instead of the lift or as part of your commute – can be a great way to add a bit more physical activity into a busy lifestyle.
‘To put it quite simply we are designed to move. Physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. We should be looking for ways to incorporate more activity into our day.’
– Simon Donovan