We're told all the time that we should be more active. But this isn't just to help us use more energy and therefore reach or maintain a healthy weight. Physical activity has important benefits that span way beyond weight management!
Exercise has often been referred to as 'the best medicine'. Even in the absence of any significant weight loss, regular physical activity has been proven to reduce the risk of several illnesses. Ensuring we move enough throughout the day is essential to our long term health and ongoing quality of life.
The government recommends adults should be active every day and should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week. This means activity that raises our heart and breathing rate, and also makes us feel warmer. So this could be a brisk walk or a gentle cycle, or even a vigorous clean of the bathroom!
Here are some of the ways regular physical activity can improve our health:
Just as being generally more active can reduce the risk of several illnesses, being inactive can increase the risk. Due to changes in technology, lifestyles and occupations, we as a society are far more sedentary than we ever used to be, and this comes with health risks.
Research has shown that even if we do regular exercise, if we have a sedentary job where we sit for hours on end, our risk of several illnesses increases. We not only need to do physical activity to raise our heart rate throughout the day, we also need to generally get up and move more. One reason is that our leg veins require muscle contraction to help the flow of blood back to the heart. If we sit still, the lack of muscle contraction can put pressure on the vascular system and lead to complications.
So if you make one change today – make it to move more! Get up from your desk every hour and walk around or do some star jumps. Get your blood flowing as often as you can and your body will thank you for it!
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.