Apart from walking from the bus stop home or from the bus stop to the office, I don’t exercise much. I am not fat. Will anything bad happen to me?
Medical professionals and fitness experts advocate exercise as a way to maintain and build health. You reverse the benefits of exercise when you stop working out, and you never build up fitness and endurance if you never exercise at all. Starting a workout regimen is harder after a long period of inactivity, but you’ll see immediate benefits to your body.
Weight and Blood Pressure
Some of the primary benefits of exercise include maintaining a healthy weight and regulating blood pressure. When you do not move, from either choice or due to injury, you burn fewer calories each day. An excess of just 500 calories per day translates into a weight gain of 1 pound per week or 4 pounds per month. When you gain weight, you have an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Being overweight makes exercise harder because you stress your joints more when you run or jog.
Bones and Strength
Sitting around or lying around all day makes you weak. Unless you continuously use the major muscle groups in your body, they do not strengthen. If you are older, you lose the battle against muscle atrophy or wasting with every year that passes. Bones also lose density with age, and lack of weight-bearing exercise plays a role in osteoporosis, or brittle bones. Your body responds to the demands you put on it, and if you do not exercise, your muscles and bones weaken with time.
Exercise for Endurance
Just walking up a flight of stairs can make you short of breath if you are out of shape. Lack of exercise can lead to a lack of energy and endurance. The listlessness you feel further dissuades you from engaging in physical activity, and the vicious circle continues. Breaking a long period of inactivity is not easy, particularly if you are overweight or have a medical condition. Starting slow with just a few minutes of walking daily gets you moving safely.
Lack of exercise can lead to a diminished sense of well-being. Your body loses muscle tone and strength and your self-esteem can suffer as a result. Weight gain might lead to social isolation and bad eating habits. Vigorous aerobic exercise such as swimming or running stimulates your body to release endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers that help elevate your mood. Resuming physical activity benefits your mental health as well as your physical health.
Sitting is the new smoking. Get up and move your body! If you don’t, your life expectancy will be shortened, you’ll develop chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Don’t risk it. If you are able bodied move your body however that feels good to you.
Some people are born with naturally thin frames and the metabolism that allows them to eat whatever they want and never gain weight. It’s tempting for these people to forego exercise altogether in favor of hanging on the couch and watching TV with a friend. As a certified personal trainer, I’ve had many clients who weren’t convinced they actually needed to exercise since they were naturally thin. Exercise does a lot more than help us burn calories to lose weight. In fact, not getting enough exercise can have a pretty significant impact on what’s going on in our bodies and the future of our health. What really happens when you don’t exercise enough?
Your metabolism slows down
Your metabolism may be great right now, but metabolism naturally slows for everyone as we age. One great way to offset these changes in metabolism is to get more exercise, including both cardiovascular and resistance training, like lifting weights. Research has shown that exercise helps increase a person’s Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which is the rate at which your metabolism functions when you are not exercising or otherwise active. While RMR is affected by other factors as well, including a person’s body weight and muscle mass, increases in RMR from regular exercise are valuable.
On the other hand, when you don’t get enough exercise, your under-used muscles gradually shrink (thanks to a phenomenon called sarcopenia that causes muscle loss as we age) and your body fat percentage increases, further slowing your metabolism. Why does RMR matter? Think of it this way. As we get older and our RMR decreases, we burn fewer calories every day if we don’t do something to increase the calorie burn, like exercise. This means that even though your habits stay exactly the same, you could start gaining weight. By getting enough exercise now and increasing your RMR, you can be proactive about your metabolism rather than reactive in the years down the road.
You feel more stressed
If you’ve ever had a friend talk about going to the gym to blow off steam, she isn’t totally off base. Most Americans say they experience stress in their daily lives, with 40 percent saying they experience stress frequently and 36 percent saying they sometimes experience stress. This is important because stress, for which symptoms include increased heart rate and muscle tension, is associated with higher blood pressure, which may lead to heart disease. When your friend says she feels less stressed after spending an hour in spin class or taking a few hits on the heavy bag in a boxing class, she isn’t imagining it, but just one class may not make that much of a difference long-term. Both inflammation and oxidative stress have been shown to be important in the development of psychological stress and anxiety. Regular exercise serves as an anti-inflammatory that can help reduce this oxidative stress, thereby reducing psychological stress. In this case, the amount of exercise matters somewhat.
In a study comparing inactive women, moderate exercisers (two-six hours of exercise per week) and vigorous exercisers (more than six hours of per week), researchers found that women who exercised regularly experienced a smaller response to stress. The response to an external stressor produced by the researches was measured both physiologically (through heart rate and cortisol levels) and psychologically (measured by chronic stress and state-trait anxiety levels). Before being exposed to the stressor, the groups of women did not vary in terms of stress level. After stress exposure, non-exercisers showed a higher stress response measured by change in heart rate and self-reported stress than the two exercise groups. Moderate and vigorous exercisers showed lower responses to stress, with vigorous exercisers having a slight edge over moderate exercisers. So while your friend who is at the gym for two hours every day may be cool as a cucumber, spending even 30-45 minutes at the gym every day can help with how your body responds to stress.
In my experience as a trainer, many women who do exercise stick primarily to cardio training like running or taking a spin class because they think it’s the best type of exercise for their health. While cardio training is important for your heart and is part of the recommendations set by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), it isn’t the only type of exercise you should be doing. In fact, resistance training, like lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises, may be one of the most beneficial types of exercise for women in particular. As we age, our bones get weaker. This is especially true of women who are four times as likely as men to suffer from osteoporosis, which is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Individuals who have less bone mass to begin with are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Your bones get weak
So what does this have to do with exercise? Research has consistently shown that resistance training has a positive effect on bone mineral density in women. By engaging in resistance training before menopause, a woman will increase her bone mass and reduce her risk of developing osteoporosis. For those who are already postmenopausal, strength training is still shown to be more effective for increasing bone mass than non-weight bearing cardiovascular exercise. The ACSM recommends that adults train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment. If you don’t get enough regular exercise, and that includes resistance training too ladies, you may be putting your bones at risk.