When we hear the word exercise, most of us automatically think of weight loss and/or building muscles. Exercise has effects on the body beyond what meets the eye.
Benefits of Exercise
Regular exercise can improve insulin resistance, improves cardiovascular fitness, reduces inflammation and improves detoxification. The risk of cancer, diabetes, heart and lung disease, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer's disease are all significantly reduced in people who move regularly.
Memory and Cognition
Regular exercise reduces cerebral inflammation, promotes the release of growth factors as well as improving blood flow to the brain. Exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory. All these factors contribute to improved memory and cognition in regular exercisers.
Mental Health Benefits
Improvement of mental health conditions such as depression, chronic stress and anxiety are seen in people who exercise regularly. Improved blood flow to the brain as well as Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis stimulation, increased social interaction and sunshine exposure (vitamin D) are all likely mechanisms for improvements in mental health conditions. Endorphins and serotonin that are released during exercise also contribute to improved mood.
Detoxification and Improved Lymphatic Function
The skin is the largest organ in the human body. When you work up a sweat, you detoxify. Be sure to drink lots of water to replace lost fluids and assist your kidneys in excretion of toxins.
The lymphatic system is made up of capillaries and nodes that act as filters responsible for removing toxins from the body. Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump to assist with circulation. Exercise and movement are critical for adequate lymphatic function.
How Much Exercise?
The Australian Government recommends adults exercise for 30 minutes, every day. It doesn't have to be anything overly strenuous or complicated. A brisk walk outdoors where you work up a little sweat and could only just hold a conversation is adequate. I highly recommend trying to exercise outdoors a few times a week to get adequate vitamin D via sunshine exposure.