We all know that exercise is good for us. But do you know what it does to your physical and mental health that makes it so important?

Find out all of the health benefits as well as work-outs to help improve your overall health. [Read more]

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Why is Exercise so Important?

We all know that we need to exercise. But do you know what it does to your physical and mental health that makes it so important?

Let’s start with what happens to your body if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.

What happens if you don’t exercise?

An inactive lifestyle can lead to a number of serious health complications.

The obvious ones are:

  • Cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease

Many of these may be secondary causes of obesity which is a leading cause of severe health complications and premature death.

What does regular exercise mean?

How much exercise constitutes regular exercise, and what exercise, does that include?

The best answer to this is, it doesn’t matter!

Any exercise is good for you, regardless of what it is.

But if you’re looking for a guideline, it’s suggested that adults aged between 18 and 65 should do between one and two hours of moderate or rigorous physical activity per week.

You should also include daily stretching exercises, or at least include them into your exercise schedule twice a week. These should work all your muscles.

Each day (or week) make sure you’re concentrating on a couple of these areas to get a good workout for all muscle areas;

  • back
  • hips
  • stomach
  • chest
  • legs
  • arms

If you’re worried about having to do two full hours of exercise, then don’t.

This recommendation is the total amount you should be doing, so even short bursts of physical activity is good for you. If you do 30 minutes per day instead of a full one – or two-hour session, that’s fine.

Even if you can’t manage two hours per week, then doing some exercise is better than none. You can determine the intensity based on your own fitness level and not feel pressured to do a session of squats when you’ve barely left the couch for 12 months.

Start slowly and test your fitness levels and what you think you can manage. Just make sure your mix it up. Do both high-intensity cardio (if possible), as well as stretching, for maximum benefits.

Types of exercise

Many people will think of exercise as only running or sport. But there so many different types that you can do, that might suit you better than being a marathon runner.

People starting out or who don’t have the physical capability, due to age or injury can try these types of exercise for high-intensity:

  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Brisk walking
  • Dance classes
  • Pilates
  • Cycling
  • Climbing flights of stairs
  • Hiking in hilly areas
  • Gardening like raking leaves or mowing the lawn
  • Playing tennis

People who want to push themselves a little further with more strenuous activities can try the following:

  • Running
  • Fast cycling (10mph or faster)
  • Jumping rope
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Zumba

What other benefits are there of regular exercise?

Apart from the obvious benefits of staving off disease like heart attacks or strokes, there are many other noticeable improvements to your well-being you’ll experience after regular exercise, like:

  • Better sleep
  • Stress relief
  • Improved endurance
  • Increased sex drive
  • Less fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Better heart health
  • Reduced cholesterol

There are not only physical benefits of regular exercise, but there are also many mental health benefits to exercising, like improved mood and focus which helps with symptoms of depression, anxiety and ADHD.

How do I find the time to exercise?

If you can find the time for cleaning, or going to work, then the chances are you can find the time for exercise. That’s because it just takes a few small lifestyle changes to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

If you’re doing housework, like vacuuming, stretching to dust the tops of cupboards or scrubbing baths, you’ve already done a good portion of your daily quota. Just doing that, or doing heavy gardening, once a week for an hour is beneficial.

  • If you have a regular coffee catch up with a friend. Try swapping it for a walk. Or taking an exercise class together.
  • When you can, walk to the shops.
  • If you’re driving or taking public transport to work, rather cycle if it’s not too far, then you’re getting to work and exercising both at once.
  • Park further away or get off the train or bus a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way if it’s too far to walk or cycle the entire way.
  • When you get to work, take the stairs instead of the lift at any opportunity you get.
  • If you’re watching a series on TV, then challenge yourself to do some jumping jacks or yoga stretches for the first 5 minutes of each episode.
  • Put dinner in the oven and do some stretching exercises while you wait for it to cook.
  • Join a class to help you add it to your routine. When a class starts and finishes at a certain time on a certain day, you’ll be likely to stick to it.

Finding time to exercise is always best when you fit it into your current routine, but it’s the starting that often stops people. So, start small.

Don’t feel you need to get your two hours of strenuous exercise into the first week. In fact, this might do a lot more harm than good. If you decide to go for a jog each day and after a couple of weeks hate it, then try something else. Motivation is hard, especially when it comes to exercise, so try and get a friend to join you, or sign up for a class.

Remember that some exercise is better than none, and starting a new good habit is often difficult. Go easy on yourself.  If you start with good intentions and then stop for a while, just remind yourself of the benefits of exerting yourself with some exercise and start again.