The Health Benefits of Exercise

Regardless of whether you’re healthy or dealing with a chronic health condition, the health benefits of exercise are many and becoming more aware of them can help you find the motivation you may be lacking in adopting a regular fitness routine.

With a vast number of both short and long-term benefits to our physical and emotional health, it is hard to deny that making exercise a regular practice in our life is essential for all of us.

It’s really one of the simplest and most affordable self-care strategies we can use to promote optimal physical, mental, emotional, cognitive and spiritual functioning.

Whether you’re looking to improve a current condition or prevent the development of future problems, young or old, we can all reap the benefits of physical exercise. Physical activity truly exercises every part of the mind, body and spirit or self.

All it takes is a little self-love and a commitment to make exercise a priority in your life, then once you begin to experience the benefits, that will become your motivation. However, if you still need a little motivation getting into gear, this list should give you the budge you need.

Some of the many benefits of exercise include:

  • reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer
  • helps you grow new arteries in your heart
  • builds healthy bones and muscles
  • healthy stimulation of neurotransmitters
  • boosts the immune system
  • prevents osteoporosis
  • strengthens the blood vessels and heart
  • lowers blood pressure
  • improves memory and cognitive functioning
  • relieves depression and anxiety
  • reduces risk of cancer, arthritis and premature death
  • balances cholesterol levels
  • assists in detoxification
  • enhances your sex life
  • improves colon functioning
  • aids the adrenal glands, kidneys and other organs to function better
  • reduces stress
  • is a great gateway for spirituality
  • increased flexibility and mobility
  • boosts energy
  • aids in balancing hormones, and blood sugar
  • improves insulin sensitivity
  • enhances sleep
  • assists in losing and regulating weight
  • oxygenates the blood
  • increases self-esteem, self-worth and confidence
  • enhances positive feelings of well-being

Other Less Known Benefits of Exercise

In addition to all those listed above, if you’re living with a chronic health condition, incorporating exercise into your daily life can offer numerous benefits that can be found nowhere else.

Many individuals living with chronic illness struggle with depression, anger and anxiety associated with the limits, losses and challenges imposed on them by their illness.  Exercise is excellent for relieving depression, anger and anxiety.  It can help you work through these feelings and provide you with an outlet to be released.

The body’s natural release of endorphins, which occurs when you exercise, also lifts the mood and is a great natural pain reliever.

Exercise can also improve your energy levels, help you sleep better and more deeply and help bowel movements to be more regular and healthy.  It can help you manage stress associated with your challenges better and improve your immune system functioning.

In my own life, I found that regular exercise helped eliminate Fibromyalgia pain quite significantly. If I don’t exercise for too many days in a row, I’ll experience a major flare. It is also crucial for me in regulating mood states, perception and outlook on life and coping with stress.

By following a regular exercise routine this gives the chronically ill something they can control, when so many factors in their lives are out of our control and this can improve mood, boost confidence and self-esteem. You’ll feel better about yourself for accomplishing a goal.

Getting Started

To reap the benefits of exercise it doesn’t mean you have to go the gym, join aerobics or participate in a strenuous exercise regimen. A simple, daily walk that consists of 30 minutes a day will do the job adequately. Not only that, you’ll be exposed to the sunlight, which will also nourish you with vitamin D, and stimulate your neurotransmitters and immune system as well.

It is my personal opinion that walking is a supreme form of exercise.  It is not too strenuous.  You can adjust your pace and timing as needed.  You can walk in a variety of places to provide some different scenery and stimulation daily.  If you can exercise outside, then you have the added benefit of spiritual nourishment with all of the beauty that nature has to offer and the benefit of sunlight. These aspects all enhance the benefits of exercise.

If you haven’t exercised for a while or you have a chronic health condition, it’s important that you start out slow and pick a less strenuous activity and increase your frequency and endurance over time.  Pick an exercise you enjoy so that you will stick with it.  It must be something you enjoy or you won’t stay with it.  

You can begin with things as simple as walking up and down and your stairs a few times, parking your car further away from your destination, taking the steps instead of the elevator, or raking the leaves.  Stand up and stretch your arms and legs and do some deep breathing.  Take a walk around your yard and then your street and eventually your block.

By incorporating these types of exercises into your life, they are easier to maintain and stay motivated with than going to a gym or some other structured regimen.

Most fitness experts agree that at least 30 minutes three times a week, and every day if possible, of mild to moderate intensity physical activity can provide us with the optimal benefits of exercise.  However, if you live with a chronic illness, it may be necessary to modify your time and days according to what your body tells you.

Even if five minutes a day is all you are capable of, you will still benefit and feel better about yourself.  Over time you can increase slowly.  Listen to what your body tells you.  If after exercise you feel worse or symptoms are exacerbated, then that is telling you to slow down and cut back on intensity and endurance.  Let your body guide you.  Don’t push it too hard.

Women should not wear their bra when they exercise. Bras inhibit the lymph glands and prevent them from detoxing chemicals out of the body. The bouncing of the breasts while exercising will encourage the lymph system to cleanse the toxins out. Bra wearing significantly increases your risks of breast cancer. Read more on 8 Reasons You Should Burn Your Bra.

It’s very important to note that exercise should be done in moderation. If exercise it is too extreme or strenuous, it will deplete adrenals, neurotransmitters and hormones and perpetuate the problem of imbalances and deficiencies rather than assist. Because exercise provides natural stimulation of the neurotransmitters, if done in excess it can trigger the addiction process. This can cause some people to get addicted to exercise and this can lead to other more serious addictions or interfere in the recovery of addiction if someone is in recovery.

Why Exercise?

The lifestyle of the human being has changed drastically over the years. For millions of years, structured exercise programs were not something needed or conceived of, because our native ancestors got their exercise from their daily activities. Paleolithic and fitness expert, Professor Loren Cordain, tells us that they were busy hunting and gathering food, preparing food, building shelter, making tools and escaping predators.

They also lifted heavy stones, butchered their own food and carried their children on their back. Everyone in the community participated in these activities, young and old. Their survival demanded they engage in hard labor on a regular basis. For entertainment, they often danced for hours several times a week. Exercise was built into their lifestyle naturally, but so was rest and relaxation. Hard physical labor was always followed by a period of rest and recovery.

Our caveman ancestors engaged in so much physical activity that they were as superbly fit as our most powerful athlete’s in this day and age, and they didn’t even try. Contrary to popular belief, native humans were robust and healthy.

That is not the case for the majority of us today. We don’t have to chase down our dinner, pick our own berries, build our own homes, run from predators etc. Our jobs and lifestyles involve very little physical activity. Our lives are much more sedentary and thus we must make up for that lack of activity in one way or another. If we don’t, then our physical and emotional health suffers.

Our caveman ancestors got a variety of different types of exercise like lifting, walking, sprinting, dancing, carrying, followed by rest and recovery and fitness experts like Cordain say so should we. Our fitness programs should consist of a variety activities, like walking, swimming, lifting weights, bicycling etc. and then periods of rest. If you engage in an activity with a high level of physical exertion on one day, then the following day you should take it easy.

Additionally, you should make your exercise regime entertaining and stimulating to encourage adherence. For example, take a swim in the lake or ocean on one day, a hike in the forest or park the next, dance around the living room the next, then a bicycle ride the next and lift weights in your back yard on another. Bring your birding book or your binoculars along on your hikes for added stimulation.

However, you can also get your exercise by simply altering your lifestyle to simulate our caveman ancestors. For example, if you are running up and down the steps several times a day to do laundry in the basement, raking the leaves, doing the gardening, moving furniture around the house to clean under it etc., these are great sources of physical acclivity, and you don’t need as much structured exercise as other less active people.

New research by astute and cutting-edge experts like Dr. Al Sears are finding that endurance exercise may actually be harmful to our health and that the healthiest most beneficial exercise is that which simulates the type of exercise that are caveman ancestors experienced naturally. Our caveman ancestors didn’t run marathons or jump around for hours, the majority of their exercise came from brief periods of intense physical activity followed by rest and recovery.

As Dr. Sears tells us, this type of exercise is “hardwired in your genes” through millions of years of evolution, and your genes define the type of movement and exertion your body needs. Living in harmony with the genetic needs of your body is the key to building a stronger and healthier body and mind.

What this means is that you should engage in a variety of types of exercise and there should be short bursts of intensity followed by rest and recovery. Intensity is more important than endurance or frequency. When you exercise for too long or too intensely, like that found in traditional cardio or aerobics, this is perceived as stress by the body.

If you spend some time exploring my site, you will find that I am an advocate of the caveman diet because it is the diet that nature intended us to eat through the process of evolution. So it makes perfect sense to me that our fitness and exercise programs should follow this line of thinking as well and I recommend you take a look at Dr. Al Sears PACE Program, which is based on this premise.

The beauty of this program, besides the fact that it based on the primal wisdom of evolution, is that anyone can do it. No matter what level of health you are at, where you’re starting from or how short on time you are, you can use this program. You start out slow and work your way up. One of the biggest barriers preventing people from getting regular exercise is finding the time. With Dr. Sears PACE Program, all you need is 12 minutes. We should all be able to find 12 minutes, right? It fits in perfectly with the busy schedule that most of us face, making it simple and easy to give our body the exercise it needs genetically to function optimally. You can read my review of Dr. Al Sears PACE exercise program, for more detailed info, if you like.

There’s no doubt about it, exercise is good for us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Regardless of whether you’re living with a chronic health condition or practicing prevention, it is essential to incorporate some kind of exercise into your daily life.  Take advantage of the many benefits of exercise to the fullest.

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