Physical Fitness - Benefits of physical activity and exercise on the body
It is a known fact that adding regular physical activity to one's daily routine will improve health and well-being. And that physical activity doesn't necessarily need to be strenuous for a person to enjoy benefits to health. Of course, by increasing the amount of physical activity (within reason), one will increase the amount of health benefits.
One of the most important benefits of physical activity is that it actually lessens a person's risk of developing or dying from many of the most common causes of serious illness and death in the United States. The risk of developing colon cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes is reduced through regular physical activity. Being physically active has also been proven to help build healthy bones, joints, and muscles. Furthermore, regular physical activity reduces the overall risk of dying prematurely from any cause. In fact, in 1995 the American College of Sports Medicine estimated that five times as many Americans die from being inactive than from losing their lives in car accidents.
Benefits of Physical Activity and Exercise on the Body: Words to Know
- Something that occurs in the presence of oxygen.
- Something that occurs without oxygen because a person is using energy to do activities at a faster rate than the body is producing it.
- Intense worry and fear.
- Chronic inflammation of the joints.
- Blood pressure:
- Pressure of blood against the walls of blood vessels.
- Cardiovascular fitness:
- How efficiently the heart and lungs can pump blood (which holds oxygen) to muscles that are being worked.
- Proteins in the brain that act as the body's natural pain reliever.
- A person's ability to continue doing a stressful activity for an extended period of time.
- A subset of physical activity, which is an activity that is structured and planned.
- Heat stroke:
- A serious condition that causes the body to stop sweating and overheat dangerously.
- Immune system:
- A body system that protects the body against illness.
- A condition involving a decrease in bone mass, making bones more fragile.
- Physical activity:
- Any movement that spends energy.
- A sudden loss of consciousness, feeling, and voluntary movement caused by a blood clot in the brain.
- Inflammation of a tendon.
- A series of exercises that incorporate regulated breathing, concentration, and flexibility.
Other benefits of physical activity and exercise include increased cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, flexibility, energy, and bone mass.
Increase Cardiovascular Fitness
Regular activity and exercise make for a healthier heart. A healthy heart is a strong heart that works efficiently and is able to easily supply the body with blood. The heart pumps blood, which carries oxygen to muscles and carries away waste. How well the heart performs is a good indication of how healthy a person's cardiovascular (the heart and the blood vessels) system is.
Endurance refers to a person's ability to continue doing a stressful activity for an extended period of time. This is sometimes called stamina. What this means is that a person with good endurance or stamina can bike, jog, play, or run for a long time without getting tired. Having a healthy endurance level means that a person has a healthy level of cardiovascular fitness. Technically speaking, cardiovascular fitness refers to how efficiently the heart and lungs can pump blood (which holds oxygen) to muscles that are being worked. The more efficiently the heart works, the more energy the body has to continue working without a great deal of effort.
Cardiovascular fitness is improved by aerobic exercise. The word aerobic refers to something that occurs in the presence of oxygen. Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health as it typically uses the body's largest groups of muscles (the legs) continually which makes a person need more oxygen. The more oxygen a person needs, the more efficiently his or her cardiovascular system must be functioning. Examples of aerobic exercise include running, walking fast, biking, and dancing. Incorporating cardiovascular, or aerobic, activity strengthens the heart and lungs. This makes it easier to do all sorts of everyday activities, such as hurrying to class, climbing stairs, or mowing the lawn.
Regular activity helps the cardiovascular system by improving circulation. Circulation is increased because physical activity increases a person's blood volume (amount). This makes it easier for the heart to function and more blood gets to muscles, meaning more oxygen is carried to the muscles. Exercise and activity also help reduce a person's chances of developing high blood pressure, or hypertension. Additionally, physical fitness reduces the risk of suffering a serious consequence, such as a stroke, from high blood pressure.
ACCORDING TO THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (CDC), NEARLY 50 PERCENT OF AMERICANS BETWEEN THE AGES OF TWELVE AND TWENTY-ONE DO NOT EXERCISE OR ENGAGE IN VIGOROUS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ON A REGULAR BASIS.
Strength is the ability to resist force. Muscles constantly resist force. The more strength a person has, the easier it is for his or her muscles to resist greater force. For instance, someone who can lift one hundred pounds of weight once is stronger than someone who can lift fifty pounds of weight twice.
Just as regular physical activity builds strength, it also builds muscle endurance. Similar to cardiovascular endurance, muscle endurance means that muscles are able to work for longer periods of time, making it easier to swim another lap or carry a heavy knapsack while walking. Someone who can lift a fifty-pound dumbbell ten times has more muscular endurance than a person who can only lift that dumbbell once.
THE EVOLUTION OF EXERCISE IN ANCIENT TIMES
Some things never seem to change. People have been concerned with physical fitness for thousands of years. What does change is why people are concerned with fitness and what benefits they think being fit will bring them. Different cultures at various periods believed that physical activity and exercise would provide individuals, or even the government as a whole, with different attributes. These attributes provide insight into the evolution of exercise and activity as well as a view of what was valued by certain ancient cultures.
Preventing Illness in Ancient China
The martial art kung fu was developed in China over 4,000 years ago. There, people saw that individuals who were physically active on a regular basis didn't get sick as much as those who were inactive. Kung fu, then, was developed in order to help more people get exercise on a regular basis and avoid frequent illness.
Quieting the Mind in Ancient India
In ancient India, physical activities such as exercise and sports were not seen as being beneficial to the mind. Matters of the mind were of the utmost importance as far as Hindu and Buddhist priests were concerned. Yoga, a series of exercises that incorporate regulated breathing, concentration, and flexibility, became popular with disciplined Indians and priests, who used it as a method for emptying their minds of thoughts before meditating.
Preparing for Battle in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Persia
The link between a healthy body and a healthy mind was lost on the ancient Egyptians. Rather, they used physical activity and exercise primarily as a way to strengthen soldiers' bodies for warfare. Endurance exercises and the use of weapons were stressed. Likewise, the ancient Persians began training young males in warfare at very young ages, ignoring education, as having schooled soldiers was not deemed necessary to protecting Persia.
Perfecting the Body in Ancient Greece
People living in ancient Greece recognized that physical fitness was just as important as knowledge and learning. Ancient Greeks strove to be well-rounded individuals and, to them, that meant training the body and the mind. Furthermore, physical fitness was seen as its own reward. In fact, there weren't any professional competitions in which victors won valuable prizes. In the Olympic Games, which originated in ancient Greece, winners were awarded only a wreath fashioned out of olive branches.
Going for the Glory in Ancient Rome
Unlike the ancient greeks, ancient Romans valued physical fitness not just for its own merits but because it benefited the government. Physically fit men made better soldiers and workers, who helped protect and expand the empire. Ancient Romans preferred to witness the glory of a victor who had competed in professional games more than the humble victory of an amateur, who didn't reap material reward from a win.
Many activities and exercises help to increase muscle strength. These are called anaerobic (without oxygen) because a person is using energy to do these activities at a faster rate than the body is producing it. Anaerobic activities include lifting heavy objects, doing chin-ups, or even taking out the trash.
Muscles grow through physical activity just as they can become more well-defined (in terms of appearance). Typically, however, more strenuous activity and exercise is required for this to occur. Muscle growth comes with activities and exercises that require strength, while muscle definition stems from exercises that require muscle endurance.
Stronger muscles go hand in hand with stronger bones and healthy joints. And, as the body builds muscle, it tends to lose fat, which results in a leaner, healthier body.
More strength means more activity can be done for a longer period of time.
Build Better Bones
Physical activity not only builds muscles, it builds stronger bones. The type of exercise that builds bones is weight-bearing or strength-bearing, such
as playing baseball, soccer, tennis, walking, or weight-lifting. The bones that will be strengthened are those that are directly affected by the activity being done. This is why doing a variety of muscle-strengthening activities on a regular basis is important.
There are several reasons why weight-bearing activities build better bones. First, these activities seem to actually stimulate the formation of bone. Also, with physical activity comes muscle strength, which means that the muscles that are exerted grow stronger; this, in turn, benefits the bones. Finally, with improved strength, balance, and coordination, the risk of falls and bone injuries is greatly reduced.
Having thicker, healthier bones helps combat arthritis, a disease that involves the chronic inflammation of the joints, and osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a disease that gradually weakens bones, making them so fragile that they can fracture easily doing everyday activities. Osteoporosis takes time to develop, and many people are unaware that they have the disease until they fracture a bone. This can result in a painful, crippling condition that is irreversible. While it is true that osteoporosis mainly strikes older people, it is during childhood and adolescence that bones are forming. Building stronger bones during adolescence will help combat diseases such as osteoporosis later in life.
As people grow older, their lung capacity (how much air the lungs hold) grows smaller. Cardiovascular activity and exercise can combat this because aerobic activities actually increase lung capacity. So while lung capacity will continue to diminish because of age, with regular activity, especially aerobic activity, it will do so at a slower rate.
Physical activity and exercise require energy, as does everything. In addition to expending energy, however, physical activity also gives people increased energy throughout the entire day.
The immune system, too, gets a big boost from regular physical activity. A healthy immune system helps fight colds, cancer, and other diseases, and speeds recovery from all kinds of injuries. The less time a person is ill, the more energy a person has to spend on living well.
To have energy to function, the human body needs sleep. Sleep, as does food, gives us energy. And regular physical activity helps people sleep more soundly. The more soundly one sleeps, the more energy one saves up during that time, and the more energy a person has to work, play, study, and do all sorts of things.
Young people are usually quite flexible. But as with lung capacity, flexibility diminishes as people grow older. Activities and exercises that increase flexibility, such as gymnastics, martial arts, and yoga, are helpful in preventing injuries. The more flexible a person is, the less likely he or she is to suffer a sprain or strain a muscle while doing everyday things or while being active.