Over the past few decades, considerable evidence has accumulated indicating that regular exercise reduces symptoms and improves well-being among individuals with long-term (chronic) diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and osteoporosis.1
Apart from diet modification, no intervention other than physical exercise offers greater promise to reduce the risk of almost all chronic diseases simultaneously. Based on the benefits of exercise in the prevention of chronic illnesses, the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C. has recommended one hour of moderate physical activity daily in order to gain weight-independent health benefits. This recommendation is in agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO) report, which concluded that both aerobic and resistance exercise are beneficial in reducing the incidence of chronic disorders.2
It has been noted that most of the chronic disorders and their associated risk factors are caused due to physical inactivity either in a direct or indirect way. Obesity is one such disorder, the risk of which is increased with physical inactivity. Not just exercises, but other physical activities have been noted to decrease the incidence of a wide number of chronic disorders such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart disorders. Physical exercise benefits our bodies in a many ways. Physical activity is also noted to activate certain genes (basic building blocks of our body) that primarily promote health and enhance physical performance.3
It has been observed that human bodies fail to function properly to maintain health when there is a lack of physical activity. This was proven in a study which noted that the incidence of chronic diseases was very low in societies where physical work was a large part of daily life. Further, the study noted that introduction of regular, physical exercise in a sedentary society with high risks of chronic disorders reduced the occurrence of such disorders to a significant extent. 3
- Pedersen BK, Saltin B. Evidence for Prescribing Exercise as Therapy in Chronic Disease. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2006; 16 Suppl 1: 3–63.
- Diet, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser. 2003; 916: 1–149.
- Booth FW, Gordon SE, Carlson CJ, Hamilton MT. Waging War on Modern Chronic Diseases: Primary Prevention Through Exercise Biology. J Appl Physiol. 2000; 88(2): 774–787.
Acne is a skin disorder that commonly occurs in teenagers and adults. It is characterized by pimples on the face, chest and back. The skin contains numerous pores which may get clogged due to excessive production of oils or due to accumulation of dead cells, dust, and bacteria, giving rise to acne. Acne has a significant economic and social impact, as well as negative effect on self-image and outlook
It is believed that exercise plays a major part in controlling acne production. Although there is no proven research-based evidence between exercise and acne, it is presumed that exercise increases the blood flow to the skin cells and provides more oxygen to these cells, which may help to reduce acne and improve skin texture.1,2 Furthermore, sweating during exercise will clean the clogged pores from the inside. This, in turn, will prevent further outbreaks of acne and help in healing of existing acne. Exercise also helps in faster healing of spots and blackheads.
Suitable exercise includes cycling, rowing, swimming, jogging and walking. In addition, exercise in the form of yoga and tai chi also relaxes mind, reduces stress and thereby goes a long way in the prevention of acne.
- Georgia State University. The Benefits of Exercise. Available from: http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwfit/benefits.html.
- Smith JA. Exercise, Training and Red Blood Cell Turnover. Sports Med. 1995; 19(1): 9–31.
One’s performance in various fields is based mainly on the ability to concentrate on the task assigned and to remain focused until it is accomplished. A sound mind and body is the essential requirement for better mental focus.
Regular aerobic exercise training has been found to be beneficial not only in improving the physical aspect but also that of the mind. Aerobic exercise has been advised for various disorders that affect mood and concentration. Beta-endorphin, a substance which is produced by the pituitary gland that changes the perception of pain and mood in a positive manner, enables the individual to perform better. Regular aerobic exercise has demonstrated increased levels of beta-endorphin in individuals. In one study, improvements in mood were noted from a single exercise session in certain affected individuals.1,2
A study at the University of Wollongong, Australia concluded that that regular aerobic exercises improved vigor while decreasing fatigue, tension and depression. Hence, the clear mind and a healthy body helps one to focus on the task assigned in a better manner thereby improving the ability to work.3
A study conducted by researchers Davranche and McMorris at the Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences Department, University of Chichester, UK, has found that cognitive processes related to aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment were differently affected by acute or moderate exercise. The study noted that individuals were able to perform cognitive tasks in a better manner when combined with exercise.4,5 Therefore, regular aerobic exercise not only has benefit on general health but also improves mental functions.
- Schwarz L, Kindermann W. Changes in Beta-endorphin Levels in Response to Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise. Sports Med. 1992; 13(1): 25–36.
- Hoffman MD, Hoffman DR. Does Aerobic Exercise Improve Pain
- Perception and Mood? A Review of the Evidence Related to Healthy and Chronic Pain Subjects. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2007; 11(2): 93–97.
- Anshel MH, Russell KG. Effect of Aerobic and Strength Training on Pain Tolerance, Pain Appraisal and Mood of Unfit Males as a Function of Pain Location. J Sports Sci. 1994; 12(6): 535–547.
- Davranche K, McMorris T. Specific Effects of Acute Moderate Exercise on Cognitive Control. Brain Cogn. 2009 Jan 10.
Stress is the feeling experienced by people when they are unable to handle the usual chores or responsibilities that were assigned. The body senses danger when a person is stressed and the body responds by increasing the breathing rate and speeding up the heartbeat.
Some studies have reported that stress can weaken the immune system and also make a person moody, tense or depressed.1Long-time stress increases the risk of blood pressure, heart diseases and stroke.
The benefit of exercises on overall health and fitness is well known. Regular exercise can help in reducing stress levels and increasing energy. With regular physical activity, the brain gives out certain chemical responses, which responsible for stress reduction. This effect is brought about by the production of certain specialized chemicals known as endorphins in our body. The endorphins are seen as natural pain relievers and help in calming the body. Further, endorphins can also make one feel relaxed and positive.2 Relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, massage, aromatherapy and yoga help the body to relax and reduce stress levels as well as producing feelings of good health and fitness. Some of the other benefits of exercises include lessening the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, and increasing self-confidence.3
Reports from multiple studies in the U.S. and Canada suggest that the symptoms of depression decrease with exercises.4 Furthermore, some studies have demonstrated that aerobic fitness is helpful in reducing the stress levels.5
An individual’s response to any type of situation is mainly based on the type of hormones and other chemicals being released in the body. Regular exercise helps in the regulation of hormones or other chemicals that are excessively produced in response to stressful situations and people are helped to remain calm and composed during stressful situations.
- Motzer SA, Hertig V. Stress, Stress Response and Health. Nurs Clin North America. 2004; 39: 1–17.
- Janisse HC, Nedd D, Escamilla S, et al. Physical Activity, Social Support, and Family Structure as Determinants of Mood Among European-American and African-American Women. Women & Health. 2004; 39(1): 101–116.
- Dimsdale JE, et al. Stress and Psychiatry. In: BJ Sadock, VA Sadock, (eds). Kaplan and Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry. 2005; 8th edn, vol. 2, pp: 2180–2195.
- Penedo FJ, Dahn JR. Exercise and Well-being: a Review of Mental and Physical Health Benefits Associated with Physical Activity. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2005; 18:189–193.
- Kohut, M.L., W. Lee, A. Martin, B et al. The Exercise-induced Enhancement of Influenza Immunity is Mediated in Part by Improvements in Psychosocial Factors in Older Adults. Brain Behav. Immun. 2005; 19: 357–366.
Are you or your children obese? Have you attempted weight loss? Regular physical activity has been viewed as an important part in helping individuals to maintain their weight loss. Both low and high intensity exercises are associated with increased energy expenditure, improved weight control and prevention of obesity. A positive effect of exercise on the distribution of body fat can be observed by the decrease in the proportion of abdominal or visceral fat, which is normally increased in obese individuals. When practiced during childhood, physical activity in the form of moderate workouts or sports helps children to develop a positive attitude towards the maintenance of proper health, which continues even during adulthood.1,2
Most fat is broken up daily in the body in a type of muscle known as the skeletal muscle. Proper exercise increases the volume of these muscles and regular physical activity increases the amount of fat utilization for the purpose of generating energy, which helps control fat mass. Furthermore, these skeletal muscles also utilize blood glucose very efficiently. Regular physical activity promotes insulin, the hormone responsible for blood glucose levels, sensitivity and the maintenance of blood glucose levels. Therefore, regular physical activity has been advised to prevent obesity and for maintaining body weight.3
Daily physical activity and regular exercise programs have an impact on the energy expenditure and insulin sensitivity (which helps in better utilization of blood glucose), thereby promoting weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. Therefore, along with diet and medications, regular physical exercise is considered to be vital for weight loss and maintenance.4
- Bray GA. Lifestyle and Pharmacological Approaches to Weight Loss: Efficacy and Safety. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008; 93(11 Suppl 1): S81–S88.
- Fogelholm M. How Physical Activity Can Work. Int J Pediatr Obes. 2008; 3(Suppl 1): 10–14.
- Maffeis C, Castellani M. Physical Activity: An Effective Way to Control Weight in Children? Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2007; 17(5): 394–408.
- Astrup A. How to Maintain a Healthy Body Weight. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2006; 76(4): 208–215.
Our day-to-day activities put different kinds of stresses on our bodies and tend quite easily to strain our muscles and bones. Our bodies are required to coordinate and perform a number of movements based on our daily needs. For example, playing children and working adults need to be flexible to prevent stress-related injuries. Being flexible is also highly important to people who need to perform repeated movements at work. Furthermore, for their fitness and health, athletes need to be very flexible because they are at the top at the top of the high-risk group prone to muscle injuries.
Exercising on a regular basis is the solution. Exercises increase the flexibility of our body by loosening up and increasing the range of movement in our joints. Swimming and stretching exercises are especially beneficial. Also, achieving good body flexibility helps to prevent a number of injuries that are associated with rigidity.
Unfortunately, individuals suffering from muscle tightness are at an increased risk of muscle tears. In such cases, flexibility exercises such as stretching should be included as a part of warming up.1 Regular flexibility exercises can prevent chronic and overuse injuries commonly found in athletes.2 For increased fitness and health, flexibility also helps to improve body awareness and promotes relaxation of the muscles being stretched.
Scientists in the field of sports suggest that flexibility exercises should be included in the daily routine of people playing sports, as these movements help to cool the fatigued muscles, which are prone to injury.3 Therefore, we need to do flexibility exercises to maintain our fitness and health.
- Boyle M. Linear and Lateral Warm-up in: Functional Training for Sports. 2004; 29–53. Champaign II, Human Kinetics.
- Tyler TF, Nicholas SJ, Campbell RJ, et al. The Association of Hip Strength and Flexibility with The Incidence of Adductor Muscle Strains in Professional Ice Hockey Players. Am. J. Sports Med. 2001; 29(2): 124–128.
- Atler MJ. Science of Flexibility. Human Kinetics 2004.
All in all, exercise is a very important aspect of human life which cannot be ignored, but the reality seems different. Professor Steven N. Blair, of the University of South Carolina has projected physical inactivity to be the biggest public health problem of the twenty-first century.1
Physical inactivity has already become a public health problem in recent times. The cost of inactivity-related problems is a burden on society and has put additional burdens on insurance programs.2
The solution could be to pay more intensive attention to developing comprehensive community fitness programs. There should be more facilities for sport and recreation, especially during wintertime and for persons with special needs. Primary health services, nongovernmental organizations and the media should play a greater role in promotion of physical activity.3
You can do two things that will matter immediately: 1) Increase your exercise program and
2) get involved in improving your community’s fitness programs.
- Blair SN. Physical Inactivity: the Biggest Public Health Problem of the 21st Century. Br J Sports Med. 2009 Jan;43 (1):1-2.
- Garrett NA, Brasure M, Schmitz KH, Schultz MM, Huber MR. Physical Inactivity: Direct Cost to a Health Plan. Am J Prev Med. 2004 Nov; 27(4):304-9.
- Kovacić L. Physical Inactivity as a Public Health Problem. Acta Med Croatica. 2007; 61 Suppl 1:5-7
Insomnia is the condition characterized by difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep through the night. A number of studies have shown that people, who engage in regular exercise, particularly women who exercise regularly, sleep longer at night and have a better quality of sleep. Regular physical exercise promotes relaxation of the body in ways that are beneficial in initiating and maintaining sleep.
Researchers at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil have shown that moderate aerobic exercise—not heavy aerobic or moderate strength exercises—can help improve the sleep quality of insomnia patients.1 According to the study, there was an increase in the total sleep time (21%), sleep efficiency (18%), reductions in the time to fall asleep (54%) and the wake time (36%), in the exercise group. Additionally, there was a significant reduction (7%) in the anxiety state after a moderate aerobic exercise session, which further adds to the sleep benefits.1
Although initially exercise increases the level of stress hormones in the body, subsequently, there is a decrease in the levels of these hormones within a few hours after exercising. As a result, regular exercise a few hours before bedtime can quickly break the sleep-stress cycle that is commonly noted in individuals suffering from insomnia. In the elderly population too, exercise may enhance sleep and contribute to an increased quality of life.2,3
- The Sleep Quality Of Insomnia Patients Can Be Improved By Moderate Exercise. Available online at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/111011.php. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Montgomery P, Dennis J. Physical Exercise for Sleep Problems in Adults Aged 60+. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002; (4): CD003404.
- King AC, Pruitt LA, Woo S, Castro CM, Ahn DK. Effects of Moderate-intensity Exercise on Polysomnographic and Subjective Sleep Quality in Older Adults with Mild to Moderate Sleep Complaints. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008; 63(9): 997–1004.
Fitness and health exercise seems to favorably modify short-term appetite control.1 Exercise will be most beneficial for weight control if carried out in combination with a balanced low calorie diet or with judicious control of eating, avoiding a desire for self-reward after exercise. The beneficial outcome of fitness and health exercise on regulation of appetite and diet can contribute in the prevention of weight regain in obese individuals.
Although the mechanisms whereby exercise improves short-term appetite remain unknown, the satiety hormones (chemical messengers that initiate a feeling of fullness after taking food) are likely to be involved. Intense exercise was found to increase the level of hunger-controlling factors after eating food, thereby suggesting that exercise can set off physiological changes in satiety hormone secretion, which help in control of appetite and weight maintenance.1
A six-week moderate exercise program (four times per week) on appetite regulation in healthy, sedentary individuals supports the findings that exercise for fitness and health has a significant impact on short-term appetite control by increasing the sensitivity of eating behavior.2 A recent study indicates that the timing of exercise to meal consumption may influence appetite and its hormonal regulators. Exercise performed two hours after meal is consumed seems to further extend the appetite-suppressing effect of food intake.3
This information should be a wake-up call, especially to obese people. Exercise for health and fitness can reduce the body’s desire for food and is a great adjunct to a healthy diet.
- Martins C, Robertson MD, Morgan LM. Effects of Exercise and Restrained Eating Behavior on Appetite Control. Proc Nutr Soc. 2008; 67(1): 28–41.
- Martins C, Truby H, Morgan LM. Short-term Appetite Control in Response to a 6-week Exercise Program in Sedentary Volunteers. Br J Nutr. 2007; 98(4): 834–842.
- Cheng MH, Bushnell D, Cannon DT, Kern M. Appetite Regulation Via Exercise Prior or Subsequent to High-fat Meal Consumption. Appetite. 2009; 52(1): 193–198.
A growing body of evidence substantiates the view that regular exercise may enhance sexuality through various mechanisms that affect both the mind and body. Regular exercise can enhance sexuality through the benefits gained in muscle strength, endurance and heart functioning. Research indicates that regular exercise may increase sexual drive, sexual activity and sexual satisfaction.
Results of one study reported that women were more sexually responsive following 20 minutes of vigorous exercise.1 Among men, exercise is linked with increased testosterone (male hormone) levels, which may stimulate sexual interest and behavior. Another study found that men over 50 years of age, who are physically active, had a 30% lower risk of impotence when compared with inactive men.2 Frequent exercise and higher levels of physical fitness seem to improve perception of sexual performance and sexual desirability.
Exercise frequency and physical fitness increase energy levels and enhance attractiveness, which make people feel better about themselves.3 Therefore, people who regularly exercise have a better perception of themselves, are more confident in their physical abilities, and find themselves more sexually attractive— all of which add to increased competency in love making. Conditioning of the body and its muscle groups allow for greater flexibility, making sexual activity more enjoyable. These people also experience higher levels of satisfaction.
- Stanten, N, Yeager S. Four Workouts to Improve Your Love Life. Prevention. 2003; 55: 76–78.
- Bacon CG, Mittleman MA, Kawachi I. Sexual Function in Men Older than 50 Years of Age: Results from the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study. Ann Intern Med. 2003; 139: 161–168.
- Penhollow TM, Young M. Sexual Desirability and Sexual Performance: Does Exercise and Fitness Really Matter? Electronic J Hum Sexuality. 2004; 7.