Are You Exercising for the Right Reasons?
This is the theme of this year’s Exercise Right Week (May 23rd -29th) promoted by Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), where we celebrate and raise awareness of the marvellous benefits of exercise for our overall health and well-being.
With there being plentiful evidence-based research surrounding the benefits of exercise and how it can influence our everyday lives in a positive way, it is a concern that many Australians are not reaching the recommended physical activity guidelines. In relation, the attitude or notion that exercise is a ‘chore or punishment’ is one that is sadly far too common throughout the Australian community. However, educating around why we should be exercising can help to transition these negative thoughts and non-sustainable goals including those such as to lose weight or ‘look better’, to goals that are healthy and motivating and that are associated with a positive relationship with exercise.
‘Exercise should be viewed as an opportunity to prioritise yourself and your health!’
Why you should exercise reason number 1: Improve your mental health
Australians living with severe mental illnesses are estimated to have a 15–20-year reduction in life expectancy (ESSA, 2015). Unfortunately, individuals with a mental illness have been shown to have poor physical health outcomes and are at an increased risk for chronic diseases due to primarily lifestyle modifiable risk factors (ESSA, 2015). Overall, exercise has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and schizophrenia, increase self-esteem, decrease social isolation, improve sleep quality, reduce cravings/withdrawal and substance use disorders and alcohol addiction, and thus improve quality of life (ESSA, 2015). Importantly, “Exercising can reduce the number of poor mental health days you experience by 40% (Exercise Right, 2022)”.
Why you should exercise reason number 2: Improve your cardiovascular health
Remaining physically active is essential for ensuring our cardiovascular system is healthy and that we are at a reduced risk of having a heart attack/developing cardiovascular disease in the future. Exercise has been proven to reduce our blood pressure and cholesterol, and to improve our oxygen utilisation, meaning that our heart is under reduced strain, and we are at a reduced risk for developing conditions such as atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction’s, strokes, and heart attacks. This is vital as “one Australian has a heart attack or stroke every 4 minutes (Exercise Right, 2022)”.
Why you should exercise reason number 3: Reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases or slow the progression of diseases.
Regular exercise has been found to reduce our risk of developing extensive chronic diseases including Cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Obesity, Kidney disease, and Osteoporosis etc. Furthermore, exercise can assist in managing chronic diseases and in reducing their severity such as by slowing the rate of progression of Parkinson’s disease, reducing the severity of side effects during cancer treatments, improving insulin resistance associated with type 2 diabetes, and in improving oxygen utilisation in those with respiratory conditions. In relation, “walking for 30 minutes, 5 days per week can reduce Australia’s disease burden by 26% (Exercise Right, 2022)”.
Why you should exercise reason number 4: Connect with others
Exercise is a great way to connect with others when you’re feeling lonely or often don’t get to spend time with others, to spend time with family or friends, and to assist in developing social skills especially for younger children.
The list of reasons as to why you should exercise is endless. Exercise really is the best medicine for our body both mentally and physically, which is why you should work with an accredited exercise physiologist to develop a sustainable exercise routine that is enjoyable and safe.