Few people disagree that we all need regular exercise, but the realities of busy modern lifestyles mean that many of us don't exercise nearly enough – or even at all. Not exercising enough has implications for both our mental and physical health.
Too much is taken for granted in life, but our health is definitely one of the things that should not be. Without exercise, our fitness and endurance levels remain low. Our muscles lose their tone, and something as simple as climbing a flight of stairs stresses the heart and makes us short of breath.
It only takes a couple of weeks from when you stop exercising to lose a significant amount of the strength and stamina that exercise produces. From there the decline continues.
A study published in June, 2015 of men who had been training for 6 weeks found that being immobilized for 2 weeks caused a roughly 11% reduction in muscle strength and work capacity. [Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp. 552-560]
Signs and symptoms of not getting enough exercise include:
consequences of being overweight
Moving our bodies requires energy that comes from the food we eat. When we are not active, we use less energy – in other words, we burn fewer calories. It is surprisingly easy for inactive individuals to consume more calories than they burn. Consuming just 500 calories a day more than we burn will lead to weight gain of roughly a pound a week, or 4 pounds (2kg) a month, or 50 pounds (23kg) a year.
Resuming exercise after years of inactivity can be a difficult undertaking, especially for someone who is overweight or has a medical condition. But getting back into shape after losing our core fitness is not as difficult as one might think. Start slowly, with swimming or just a few minutes of walking each day. From there, as stamina improves, expand the types and duration of exercise activities.
Vigorous exercise causes your pituitary gland to release endorphins, which in turn produce a feeling of euphoria and a general state of well-being. It also reduces anxiety and helps us cope with stress.
Regular exercise promotes sound sleep; it also increases our energy levels and makes us feel more alert during the day, due to greater blood flow through the brain. This makes everyday activities – and exercise – easier. Men who exercise have better erectile and sexual function than men who do not.
The major muscle groups respond to the demands put on them, and need to be used regularly in order to strengthen and maintain their strength. As we age, failing to exercise leads to a losing battle against muscle atrophy (muscle wasting), bone density loss / brittle bones / osteoporosis, and serious disease.
Lack of exercise can also affect mental health, with a diminished sense of well-being, lower self-esteem due to physical appearance, social isolation due to weight gain, and poor eating habits.
People often sleep more easily and soundly once an exercise program is started.
Exercising during pregnancy stimulates glucose transport and can help control gestational diabetes without the use of insulin. Moderate workouts appear safe for most females with gestational diabetes. [The Physician and Sports Medicine, March, 1996;24(3): pp.54-66]
A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of suffering from osteoporosis later in life. Exercise strengthens bones – inactivity encourages the body not to rebuild unused resources.
One study showed that people with a low physical activity level had a lower reserve of vitamin E than those more highly active. Vitamin E concentration was inversely related to abdominal circumference. The inverse relationship between tocopherol levels and levels of body fat may explain why this is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, due to vitamin E's role as an antioxidant and protective agent in cardiovascular disease. [Journal of Internal Medicine, 1993;234: pp.53-60]
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