How do we reach Superhero status? A great place to start is through exercise...
Updated: Jan 24, 2018
1) The Improvement Of Bone Density!
To start us off, a few bone basics -
Our bones are constantly being renewed by means of a remodelling process, in which old bone is removed by cells called Osteoclasts and replaced with new bone by bone building cells called Osteoblasts. During our childhood and through our teenage years, new bone is added to the skeleton faster than old bone is removed. As a result of this, our bones grow in both size and strength. Even after we’re fully grown in terms of height and our bones have reached their full length, bone formation still continues at a faster pace than resorption until around the early twenties, which is when we reach peak bone mass as well as length. After this, after our early twenties, our bone mass either remains stable or can actually gradually decrease over the years. This gets especially worse for women post menopause and then we are at risk of fragility related fractures and even Osteoporosis.
HOWEVER, there are things we can do to help our bones stay dense and strong and a huge one is through exercise, specifically weight bearing exercise, such as weight lifting. In fact, how much physical activity we perform influences how much Bone Mineral Density (BMD) we have. This is because in loading the bone, a strain is caused which forces bone to adapt it’s structure in response to this load. Meaning that bones that are subjected to higher loads are typically accustomed to adapt and strengthen, while bone that is not, becomes weaker. In lifting weights, we are loading our bones which stresses the skeletal system and has what is known as an osteogenic effect, meaning that new bone is created.
Increasing our BMD is so important to encourage a healthy ageing process and weight training is a fantastic way to do this. To contribute further to help keep our bones strong, we also should ensure our calcium intake is sufficient, to help absorb the calcium, we should also focus on our Vitamin D intake, as well as Potassium, Vitamin K and Magnesium.
2) More Ability To Relax!
We’ve all been there at some point, whether it be the demands of work have increased, or we’ve moved house and now have a nightmare of a commute, or people were SO selfishly born in January?! Whatever the reason, it’s very easy to find ourselves feeling anxious, a little lost and like there’s something tight in our chests or a knot in our stomachs that just won’t go away.
It’s so easy from here to slip into a constant cycle of having no time to exercise, or even the desire to, our anxiety and stress levels creep up and up, leaving us feeling vulnerable and not in control. Then our sleep becomes affected due to all this worry and only gets worse and worse. Mix this cocktail of stress, lack of sleep and no exercise together and we’re basically left with a recipe for disaster.
Avoid finding yourself at this point by forcing yourself to schedule in time for YOU, everyday. An hour or even half an hour of recharge time is crucial to our wellbeing, whether that be a facial, brisk walk, some reading or gym time, please do it! We all want to be the best version of ourselves and a tense, anxious and unrested us is just not that. Even if you’re the kind of person who generally finds it difficult to switch off and always has, exercise can be so beneficial for helping us to relax.
For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Especially if we get some movement in, around 6 hours before bedtime because this will raise our core temperature and when we drop down back to normal a few hours later, our body has it’s signal that it’s time for zzzzzz.
A study in Brazil, at the University of Sao Paulo, Department of Psychobiology, discovered long-term moderate aerobic exercise, elicited significant improvements in sleep, quality of life and also mood in individuals with chronic primary insomnia.
So how did they reach this conclusion?
Nineteen, sedentary individuals with chronic primary insomnia, average age of 45, took part in a 6 month exercise program and were randomly spilt into a morning group and late-afternoon group. The results found a significant decrease in sleep onset latency and wake time after sleep onset and also a significant increase in sleep efficiency following exercise. As well as this, data from sleep diaries revealed significant improvement in sleep quality and feeling rested in the morning! It’s good to know there were generally no significant differences in response between the morning and the late-afternoon exercise groups, meaning both benefited massively from their new exercise programs.
These individuals also found some quality-of-life measures had improved significantly as a significant decrease was seen in their tension, depression & anxiety. These effects also did not vary between the morning and late-afternoon exercise groups.
Sometimes it feels as though an hour for yourself is literally impossible! And, of course, there are days when that LITERALLY is the case. But to put things in perspective, 1 hour is 4% of your day, a 4% that if you use wisely, will genuinely make the other 96% so much smoother and more enjoyable, especially and most importantly the 29-33.3% you’ll aim to spend asleep!
3) An Increased Ability To Cope With Stress!
“Many people think that our hormones control our emotions. But actually, it's the other way around-emotions control our hormones through biochemical changes in the brain. Fear, for instance, is accompanied by the production of one set of brain chemicals that can make us alert and ready to flee, while pleasure triggers the release of other chemicals that soothe and calm.” - Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
So, in regards to exercise and stress, the important hormone here is norepinephrine. This is a chemical that can moderate the brains response to stress and allow it to deal with any stresses more efficiently; it’s believed that exercise leads to an increase in concentration levels of norepinephrine. However, some psychologists don't believe it's as simple a formula as, more norepinephrine equals less stress. Instead, they think exercise enhances the body's ability to respond to stress, due to exercise being a stress on the body itself. Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with stress and forces the body's physiological systems — all of which are involved in the stress response — to communicate much more closely than they usually would. Meaning, the cardiovascular system communicates with the renal system, which communicates with the muscular system. This “workout” of the body's communication system, may be the true value of exercise when we’re talking about the potential lead to a reduction of stress; the more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies are in responding to stress, due to it’s lack of practice.
Dealing with stressful situations is an inevitable part of life, but it’s good to know your workouts can help you overcome them flawlessly (Or very nearly flawlessly!) For those of you who work in stressful environments, or lead especially busy lives, maybe a few rounds on the punch bag will do more for you in the long run than you know and might even serve as a rehearsal for your next big hurdle.
We all know that exercise is an immediate stress buster, but to learn it has a long term effect on our ability to deal with ongoing stress, is yet another awesome reason you are doing yourself a huge favour, in choosing to be a regular exerciser.
4) Increase In Self Confidence
Exercise can quickly elevate our perception of our attractiveness! On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image.
So, how ow do we know this?
In a study on the connection between physical exercise and levels of self esteem, 197 girls participated in physical activity and their self esteem was assessed at the ages of 9,11 and 13 years old. A significant effect of physical activity on self-esteem was identified. Specifically, higher physical activity at ages 9 and 11 years, predicted higher self-esteem at ages 11 and 13 years respectively. Results suggest that participating in physical activity can lead to positive self-esteem among adolescent girls, particularly for younger girls and those at greatest risk of becoming overweight. These findings highlight the necessity of promoting physical activity as a method of fostering positive self-worth.
Another study by the Medical College of Georgia, took 207, typically sedentary children from the ages of 7 to 11 and randomly assigned each to either continue their sedentary lifestyle, or exercise for 20 to 40 minutes every day after school, for an average of 13 weeks. The 40-minute group, sustained the most psychological benefit, according to research published online in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. The study focused on fun activities that increased the children’s heart rate, such as running games, jumping rope, basketball and football and also included short bursts of intense activity interspersed with lower-activity recovery periods. Participants in these activities reported feeling better about themselves. The Dr who conducted the study said - “This adds to the evidence that exercise is great for people, physically and mentally, our physical and mental well being are intimately interwoven.”
I could not agree more Doc!
5) The Sharpen Of Memory Skills
Want to learn a new language? WIN YOUR LOCAL PUB QUIZ FOR MILLIONS OF POUNDS?! Then train! Why?
Exercise actually increases cell production in the hippocampus. For this reason, research has linked children’s brain development with levels of physical fitness. But exercise-based brainpower isn’t just for kids. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults. This particular experiment took 27 healthy individuals and discovered that vocabulary learning was 20 percent faster after intense physical exercise. It's also very interesting to know that the actual size of this particular part of the brain is bigger in fitter people.
So, in this case, bigger DOES mean better...
Regarding boosting your brain’s ability to retain information, it looks as though HIIT training is thought of as being the most beneficial. Amazing too for giving your cardiovascular system a real rev, perfect for those short on time, I love it because I’m easily bored and also you can do it almost anywhere, not to mention it’s a great fat blitzer due to the after burn effect it has on our bodies. Winner!
Thank you so much for reading through these 5 benefits of exercise that we're unable to see and I hope you’ve found these topics informative. If you’re already exercising regularly, you now know or have refreshed your mind with some added bonuses as a result of all your efforts and hard work, and if you could be doing more to get moving, you’re potentially a little more inspired to!