HEALTH AND FITNESS: The benefits of exercise beyond fitness | Features

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There’s no doubt that regular exercise is essential for achieving and maintaining physical fitness, losing and maintaining weight, and preventing and treating conditions like diabetes and heart disease. What you might not know is that exercise can improve your health in ways you might not notice at the gym or on the scale. Here are some ways exercise can improve your health.

Improve your immune system

Exercise can have a positive effect on your immune system. People who engage in moderate physical activity daily have fewer serious colds and have up to 50% fewer sick days than those who are not regularly active. Research shows that exercise increases the activity of certain immune cells called helper T cells. This makes the immune system’s response to viruses, such as colds and flu, more robust. The strongest evidence is seen when exercise is of moderate intensity and duration, such as walking or jogging for 30 to 60 minutes.

Fight the fire of ignition

Inflammation is a key factor implicated in the development of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers. Many people look to their diet for foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, but it turns out that exercise can also have a significant impact on reducing inflammation. It has to do with the fact that exercise causes your muscles to produce chemical signals called myokines that influence other organs. One of them is IL-6, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects.

Balance your gut bacteria

You’ve probably heard that the bacteria that naturally inhabit your intestines are linked to your health. Simply put, some of these bacteria are harmful to your health, directly and indirectly causing health problems. Gastrointestinal issues are the most obvious, but these bacteria can also influence your hormones and metabolism in ways that lead to inflammation, obesity, and heart disease. Other bacteria are considered “good,” meaning they have positive health effects. Research shows that exercise can have a beneficial effect on gut bacteria, which can potentially influence gastrointestinal system health, inflammation, and weight control.

Boost your brain function

Research shows that exercise has far-reaching effects on brain structure and function, derived from increased cerebral blood flow and production of BDNF, an important growth factor that promotes brain growth and repair. . Benefits include improved learning and memory, better attention and ability to ignore distractions, better stress management and improved mood.

sleep better

Exercise has long been associated with improved sleep. This is thought to be because exercise depletes energy stores and elevates body temperature and sleep restores energy, promotes tissue repair and regulates body temperature. Exercise is a healthy, safe, inexpensive, and simple way to improve sleep, potentially replacing sleeping pills. Research also shows that aerobic exercise can improve sleep quality, mood, and feelings of vitality in people with chronic insomnia.

Take action to achieve these benefits

Like improved fitness and weight control, these other benefits depend on the type, intensity, and duration of exercise you do. At a minimum, making time to be active each day is essential, even if it’s a 30-minute walk. You should schedule longer exercise sessions on some days, shorter, more intense workouts on others, and strength and flexibility training at least two days a week. This will help achieve fitness and weight control goals as well as other hidden benefits of exercise that will promote better overall health.

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