Comment by Dr Sally Norton, UK health expert, NHS weight loss surgeon and founder of www.vavistalife.com
Regular exercise can help us to lose weight, but more and more research is showing that regular exercise can have a whole range of health benefits on our health and wellbeing:
– It can help us to avoid the onset of osteoporosis. Our bones become thinner as we age, but by putting impact on them through regular exercise, the stronger our bones can become.
– It can reduce our risk of heart problems. Regular exercise can help keep our heart and blood flow in peak condition, and as a result, helps to reduce our risk of developing heart disease or blood clots.
– It could help combat stress. Not only does exercise seem to trigger endorphins or ‘happy hormones’ but it also helps to clear your mind.
– It can help reduce fatigue. You might not immediately think of exercise when you think of ways to improve energy levels – after all, exercise actually takes up our energy surely? But in fact, studies show that exercise increases our energy in many ways – from building up muscles to boosting our mood and self confidence.
– It can help us to lose weight even when sitting still! Regular exercise builds up muscle – which burns more energy, long term. And, when we are more muscular, we are more toned, have better posture and so, as a result, we look slimmer too.
Obviously, you can’t rely solely on exercise to help you lose weight long term, and it certainly takes more than just fitness to keep our bodies healthy. It also relies on having a healthy diet, changing our behaviours to create long term healthy habits and just generally adopting a healthier mindset. But, exercise is a big part of staying healthy – and keeping fit can even prompt you to make the rest of your life healthier. After all, you’ll feel much more positive and have more energy to head out for a run or a brisk walk after a healthy, nutritious meal, than you would on a diet filled with sugar and fat laden foods. And now, according to a recent study, it may have a positive effect on our brain power too, as we get older.
The study from the University of Kansas Medical Centre analysed the effect of regular exercise on levels of brain function in over 65 year olds. There were four groups of participants – one group did no monitored exercise, and the other three did varying amounts of moderate exercise ranging from 75 minutes per week, to 225 minutes (about three hours 45 minutes) per week. All groups who exercised saw some benefit in visual spatial processing (the ability to perceive where objects are in space and how far apart they are from each other), as well as an increase in overall attention levels and ability to focus.
Interestingly, in this study, it seemed that the intensity of the exercise mattered more than the duration. This means that improving our brain power relies on actually pushing ourselves, instead of just plodding along. Perhaps raising your blood pressure with a good workout increases blood flow to the brain and really gets it working!