The Benefits of Exercise

In this article we will explore the many benefits associated with exercise

In 2009 an Australian research team published a paper showing the positive effects exercise exerts in the fight against cancer. The research demonstrated that exercise, in conjunction with established treatment methods, can positively support cancer patients irrespective of what stage they are at in their treatment. Since the publication of that seminal 2009 paper the benefits accrued through supplementing exercise during cancer treatment have been extensively reviewed. A recent publication reported that of 140 such studies 75% showed ‘statistically significant and clinically relevant benefit through exercise on a range of treatment-related side effects, physical, functional, and psychosocial outcomes,’ (Maloney, et al. 2018).

The single most successful outcome of the Australian research team’s paper, besides stimulating wider scientific interest, was to inspire the medical profession to prescribe exercise to cancer sufferers as a supplementary method of treatment.

Wait! There’s more – much more

Of the myriad benefits exercise confers the cancer fighting one is arguably the crowning jewel. But we should not be dazzled and allow this one benefit to lessen the lustre of the numerous other gems that adorn the diadem of exercise. If not equal they should be given the due consideration they deserve.

It is these benefits that will form the body of our discussion.

The corpus of this blog comes in two parts. Firstly, with the time-strapped reader in mind, the health benefits associated with regular exercise have been encapsulated in a list. Following the list, for the reader not so conscientious of time management, a number of the benefits have been discussed in greater detail. In an attempt to lend this blog a scholarly gloss academic references have been enlisted to support content (all references and suggested reading have been included after the conclusion).

I might be committing an impropriety by saying this now, but what you are about to read is really no more than an impassioned panegyric. This author not only loves exercise but also believes everyone else ought to. Thus through the immense din of so much insensible noise I’m attempting to reach out with a few words of inspiration. For it is my sincere hope that the information contained within this blog will fire your desire to take up exercise and in doing so reap the many benefits it has to offer.

It is to those benefits we now turn . . .

If you decide to implement an exercise regime as part of a move towards a healthier lifestyle you stand a statistically greater chance of pocketing the following positives:

o Weight control
o Improved body composition
o Protection against coronary heart disease (CHD)
o Improved cardio-respiratory performance
o Protection against stroke
o Improved immune function
o Decreased depression
o Helps reduce anxiety
o Mitigates chronic stress
o Promotes a positive attitude
o Enforces self-efficacy
o Improves self-confidence and self body image

Wow! What a singularly impressive list of health benefits. Makes me want to slip on a pair of sneeks and go out for a five mile run followed by a set of 500 kettlebell swings. To think, each mile, each set of ten could be boosting my immune system and protecting me against heart disease!

Anyway, let’s delve a little deeper into some of those benefits shall we?

Weight control

Obesity is now considered a global epidemic. Worldwide more than 1 billion people are believed to be either over weight, obese or morbidly obese. By 2030, if current trends continue, it is predicted that over a quarter of all people alive will be obese. To account for this phenomenon many interesting theories have been put forward – theories that range from mass misbehaving microbiota to hormonal imbalances caused by chemical pesticides and airborne pollution. And whilst it would be unwise to dismiss these theories off-hand, as it is yet unclear what role they play in the prevalence of obesity, the one that maintains the most credibility is by far the simplest to comprehend.

Today more people live a sedentary lifestyle than at another time across all human history. According to a leading research article, compared to just the previous generation, ‘we are spending increasing amounts of time in environments that not only limit physical activity but require prolonged sitting,’ (Sparling et al. 2010). Habitual sedentary behaviour, that is, lounging in front of the TV or using automation instead of walking or cycling, has been shown to be a significant ‘risk factor for cardiometabolic disease and all-cause mortality.’

By being more active, by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or cycling instead of gas guzzling, by introducing more exercise into our lives we can work to keep our weight within a healthy range thus significantly reducing our risk of succumbing to the many diseases associated with obesity.

Protection against stroke

Most people understand how serious a stroke can be but few understand how they are caused. Otherwise known as acquired brain injury (ABI), strokes are the result of the disruption of blood supply to the brain cutting off oxygen to cells. If cells are starved of oxygen, even for just a few seconds, they die – in their millions and billions. The death of cells in the brain results in damage to localised areas. This in turn can lead to loss of neurological functions and memory impairment (Haslem et al 2018).

Simply put, strokes are devastating; they can impede motor function, rob people of cognisance and, at their most severe, kill.

However, researchers have produced a substantial body of evidence demonstrating ‘that regular physical exercise affords protection against stroke,’ (Curtis 2000). By improving the ratio of high-density lipoproteins to low-density lipoproteins (commonly referred to as good and bad fats respectively) exercise reduces the quantity of bad fat in the blood. It is this bad fat that can clog up capillaries starving the brain and cells of oxygen.

By following this simple logic, if we engage in regular exercise we will, in turn, decrease bad fat and with it our susceptibility to suffering from stroke.

Decreased depression

One in four people at some point in their life will suffer from depression. It’s been estimated that currently 264 million people are currently suffering from this debilitating condition (WHO, 2020). The misconception is that depression is a mild disorder brought on by rainy days or a soppy film. In reality depression can be hugely debilitating the symptoms of which can range from loss of motivation, to low self-worth and even to suicide ideation.

Anyone who has suffered depression can attest to the inescapable ag