When most people think of exercise, they usually associate it with weight loss. Yes, exercise is extremely important when it comes to weight loss and weight management, but that is only one of the very numerous benefits.
Every time we move our body we are increasing the circulation. This increase in circulation helps our cardiovascular system work more efficiently and delivers additional oxygen and nutrients to all of our body tissues. These changes have been shown to help decrease our risks of developing multiple different chronic health conditions including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Exercise also releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters into the blood stream. These endorphins provide a feel good response in our body which helps improve mood. This mood enhancement effect can be felt within 5 minutes after moderate physical activity and regular exercise keeps this enhancement effect lasting more long-term. For this reason, physical activity is great for any form of mood disturbance, anxiety, depression or anyone looking for a general pick-me-up.
Engaging in regular physical activity also improves the overall quality of our sleep.
We know that exercise has benefits to our health, but many people wonder how much they really need to be getting. Current recommendations for Canadians is at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week. Two recent studies published in the June 2015 issue of the JAMA Internal Medicine journal have aimed to look closer at these recommendations to find the optimal activity level to promote longevity.
The first study published by Arem et al. showed that individuals who did not exercise at all are at the highest risk of early death. Not surprising! But what they did find was that those who exercised even a little, without meeting the minimum recommendations, lowered their risk of premature death by 20 percent. Meeting the recommendations at 150 minutes per week has been shown to provide 31 percent lower risk of death than those who never exercised. Optimal level of health benefits were shown in those who exercised 3 times the recommended level by getting 450 minutes per week; they were 39 percent less likely to suffer an early death than those who never exercise at all. Best of all: those optimal health benefits were seen with moderate activity, mostly walking, for about an hour per day.
Gebel et al. examined how differences of moderate and vigorous physical activity can affect health outcomes. They found that simply meeting the exercise guidelines of 150 minutes per week greatly reduced risk of early death even if activity was moderate intensity, such as walking. By spending only 30 percent of your weekly exercise time performing more vigorous activity, they found that you are 9 percent less likely to die prematurely than someone exercising the same amount of time, but always at a moderate level. Those who spend more than 30 percent of their exercise time in strenuous activities had a 13 percent reduction in early mortality compared with the moderate group.
So, what does that mean for you? As suspected, any amount of exercise is better than none and will improve your overall health and longevity. However, to receive optimal benefits for longevity it is ideal to “reach at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week and have around 20 to 30 minutes of that be vigorous activity.” Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you haven’t exercised for a long time, have chronic health problems, or you have any concerns. Take the first step today to increase your physical activity levels to improve your overall health. Something as simple as a walk around the neighbourhood can help you live a longer and healthier life. Increase the intensity of your activity slightly to break a sweat and you’ll be gaining even more benefits. Time to lace up the sneakers and get your sweat on!
This article is intended for educational and information purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you require medical advice, diagnostics or treatment, please contact your nearest healthcare professional