Even the most lazy person knows that exercise is good for us. If it’s not our doctor telling us to move more it was our PI teacher at school, or our parents telling us to go outside instead of eyeing down the computer all day. Exercise is healthy. It makes it easier to manage our weight and we feel pretty good when we’re done. But do we know what exactly happens in our body when we exercise? And do we really know just how healthy it actually is? For being such a well know concept, I think we yet haven’t given it all the cred it actually deserves.
Different types of exercise
The beloved cardio. Some people hate it, some people love it.
Aerobic training, or cardio training is very important to us. If you’re circulating in the fitness community you’ve probably heard that “cardio is over hyped”, “you don’t need cardio to lose fat”, “strength training is all you need!”. They are not wrong, you don’t neeeed cardio to lose fat, but you do need cardio for like a million other things. Well, at least for about 4 really important things.
- Heart and lung health. Cardio is your hearts favorite lover boy or girl, or nonbinary. We don’t discriminate any genders here. Cardio strengthens your heart and lungs. Why is this important you might ask? A strong heart and lungs increase our endurance, making your body better to absorb and pump around oxygen. If you didn’t know, oxygen is a pretty big deal.
- Lower blood pressure and diabetes. When your heart becomes stronger it pumps around the blood much easier to lower blood pressure. Cardio is also a great way to burn of excess glucose in the blood, reducing the risk of developing diabetes, or in helping individuals with diabetes.
- Fat burning. Cardio is not necessary for losing weight(calorie deficit is) but we can’t deny the fact that it does burn calories. Studies show that people who do frequent cardio have lower visceral fat – the dangerous “inner” fat which lays around your organs. Heard of the term “skinny fat”? Visceral fat is the one to blame. Even though both overweight and underweight people can suffer from visceral fat it’s more likely for a skinny person to ignore taking charge of their health since “they don’t look unhealthy”.
- Mood booster: a bit of a sweat feast never hurt nobody, quite the opposite! Just 35 minutes of cardio three times a week can increase your mood by like, a lot. The optimal cardio recommendation is to get in 180 minutes of cardio every week. A brisk walk is just fine but try to challenge your heart a bit to keep that little guy happy.
Strength. I feel like we have two teams here. One team who is all about the gains, preaching for weights and weights only. Building muscles, getting in that protein to get that lean physic all the Instagram fitspo models have. Then we have the other team. The ones who are so afraid of lifting weights, afraid to get “too bulky”. The ones who spend hours a week doing cardio.
None of these teams are better than the other, they are staying active in their own way. But, they should definitely learn form each other. And for the cardio obsessed people out there – it’s time to lift up those weights! Strength training has so many benefits beyond achieving a bomb ass physic. As we grow older we lose our lean muscles tissue year by year. The only way to keep our muscles is to use them.
- Bone health. that strong muscles make strong bones is the typical slogan, but it should be. Weight training doesn’t only increase muscle mass, but it also strengthens our bones reducing the risk of arthritis and osteoporosis. For females this is especially important, as we tend to lose bone density as we enter menopause. Not the hottest topic I know, but a very important one.
- Increase metabolism. Lean muscles require more energy at rest which means that you get to eat more food to maintain your weight. As we build muscle our body starts burning fat more efficiently. This process continues even after you’ve had a good pump at the gym.
- You don’t need a gym. Most people get the image of a buff bodybuilder throwing bricks in the air when we hear “strength training”. This is thankfully not the only way to build muscle. If you are afraid to lift super heavy right of the bat, I’m glad to inform you that body weight exercise is just as effective. The important thing to think about is resistance. You want to train until or close to failure to really challenge your muscle and break down the tissue.
Yet again we have two types of people. The ones who dedicate a solid 15 minutes to stretching after their workout and the ones who don’t stretch for shit. If you belong to the latter (myself included), it’s about time to add in at least 5 minutes of light stretching.
Daily stretching increase flexibility which reduce injury, muscle soreness and shortness, and improves blood circulation to your muscles. Stretching has also shown to improve vein health (hate, absolutely hate that word) which makes your blood flow easier throughout your cute little body.
Pretty straight forward here. We know what balance is and it’s important to have a good sense of it to understand where you are in space. Kinda loopy and weird way to put it, but you get the point. Balance becomes more important as you grow older as it will minimize the risk of falls and injuries. Let’s be honest, a big part in taking care of yourself is to become that cool (and hot) grandma or grandpa who’s fresh as fudge.
Easy ways to improve balance is by having a strong lower body. Simple walking or taking the stairs are underrated ways to improve balance. Yoga is another great balance training which also improves your flexibility. Most gyms also have dedicated balance boards or pilates balls. If one thing is for sure it’s that a Pilates ball will make you question everything you know about balance…
The brain on exercise
Oh, our little mushy head lump, our brain. This weird incredible thing which controls our whole existence. Talk about a power trip. We mentioned that exercise boosts our mood, but how?
- Dopamine kick. Why do we feel so great after a nice pump? It’s all about dopamine, baby! When we exercise we stimulate the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for hormone production. In the case of exercise, our hypothalamus goes cray cray on releasing the feel good hormone dopamine. Exercise is definitely one of the best happy kicks there is.
- Brain cell growth and brain plasticity. Who knew that while working that junk in your trunk your are also supporting new brain cell growth? So don’t come here and tell me fit people aren’t smart! Exercise has this wonderful effect of pumping oxygen around our body, and this also includes the brain. More oxygen to the brain stimulates new cell growth and brain plasticity – forming new connections and neurons in our brain.
- Reduce risk of disease and inflammation. As we age there’s unfortunately a higher risk of catching an “age related” disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Exercise might have the effect of battling these diseases as it improves the formation of new brain cells and plasticity. Besides this, exercise helps regulate other underlying factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Sex it up
Now let’s get into the saucy part which everyone loves – sex. Exercise will significantly improve your sex life. Not only does your stamina increase with regular exercise, but as a man you’re less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. And for us females exercise and specifically strength training makes the pelvic floor stronger leading to pretty sweet orgasms. Do I even need to give another reason to sweat it out?!
So, by now I hope I haven convinced you even more to why you should put on those training shoes and get a good sweat on. What matters in the long run is what you do consistently. It’s better to walk 10 minutes a day than doing nothing. What’s your reason for training more?