Exercise and nutrition have been hand and hand for a while, but how does exercise help with our overall health? Many people associate exercise with loosing weight. Ironically, exercise only accounts for about 10-15% of weight loss. The rest is your diet and nutrition. There is more benefits to exercise than just aiding in loosing a few pounds. Although there are many benefits to exercising, I’m going to focus on three that affect every person: bone density & muscle mass, flexibility & strength, and finally stress management.
Bone & Muscle Density in Later Years
This is the biggest one for me.
Are you ready for one of the most scariest things I learned? Picture your bones as a calcium bank. The cut off time to deposit into the bank is around 30 years of age. You hit peak bone mass at age 30. To maintain the bone mass you have, eating a diet with good sources of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, and Vitamin D is a must. Age and hormonal changes will also effect your bone density, so the older you are, the more important bone health becomes.
Your muscle mass decreases with age as well. The saying, “You don’t use it, you loose it” proves true with muscle mass. The more sedentary your life is, the less muscle mass you’ll have. The older you are, the harder it is to gain muscle mass. The less muscle mass, the lower metabolic rate and the less calories you need to consume, and eating less calories means it’s harder for your to eat the amount of nutrients you need.
How Exercise Helps
Exercise you can well imagine helps to strengthen your muscles and increase muscle mass. It is also a huge help in strengthening your bones and maintaining bone density as well as muscle mass. Regular weight-bearing exercises every week can help to slow and possibly prevent bone loss. The stress of the weight on your bones will cause them to strengthen and can become denser. The bones being pulled by muscles working can also strengthen your bones and slow the process of bone loss. Muscles and bones work together. What strengthens one, will help to strengthen the other. Here are some examples of weight-bearing exercise to incorporate a few times in the week.
- Brisk Walk
- Weight Training
- Stair Climbing
- Jump Rope
Flexibility and Strength
Flexibility and strength are greatly needed the older we get. It determines how long we are able to be independent. Think about simple tasks of sitting and standing up. Reaching for something that has dropped on the floor. Climbing up steps. Catching ourselves when we are off balance. All simple tasks, but require our muscles and ligaments to be relatively strong and flexible. The more we do strength exercises and regularly stretch the more it will be there the older we get.
We loose muscle mass as we age. The body will breakdown more muscle at a higher rate the older we are than when we are younger. Keeping our muscles moving and building them, even in small ways, helps to keep your muscle mass and tone. Staying active no matter what age, for how long, or the intensity will help. Just keep moving!
We all deal with stress. It can come in many forms. It can be good stress, bad stress, or just plain ol’ life stress that comes with day-to-day activities. How our bodies are able to handle it can be a huge health concern, especially for your heart and mental well-being.
Let’s talk about the heart for a moment. Exercise will regularly help you heart to become stronger and help to reduce bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. Stress in general can cause unwanted and unhealthy stress on the heart, and if you do not have a regular exercise routine and have (or have a chance) of having high cholesterol, the higher risk there is for damaging your heart, if not causing a heart attack. Regular healthy stress on the heart that comes from moderate exercise will help when anxiety type stress comes up in our lives. You will have a stronger heart, and less of a chance of high cholesterol so that your body can more readily deal with the emotional stress without it causing too much physical stress on your body.
Your mental well-being is just as important as your physical. Regular exercise helps to balance out the chemicals in our brains. It increases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. All help to deal with stress, elevate your mood, and helps to keep you positive. When dealing with stressful situations either at work, in the family, moving, etc. it can trigger depression and anxiety in many people. If you are able to keep with a regular exercise routine, the better you will be at handling those situations without or with less of the affects of depression and anxiety.
Another thing stress can affect is your digestive system. Stress and anxiety simulates the nervous system which controls your digestive system. It can either make it slower or faster. Slower digestion can make it uncomfortable or can make it to where you do not eat, which then you are not able to take in the nutrients your body needs. Or your body may not be able to extract nutrients because it’s going through your tract too fast. Either way, it’s not healthy.
Many people associate exercise with weight loss, and although it helps, it’s actually your diet and diet habits that truly does the trick. Exercise however, does more than just help you loose weight.
- It keep your bone and muscle mass at healthy levels as you age.
- Exercise helps to keep your body strong and flexible throughout life.
- When dealing with stress, emotional or otherwise, exercise helps to keep a balance of chemicals to help you deal and cope with the stresses in your life in a healthy and less damaging way physically and mentally.
So although it might be hard to pick yourself up early in the morning or after a long day, your older self will thank you for it.