While most people agree that healthy eating and regular exercise is important, it seems some people still aren’t convinced why you should be physically active. In short, regular physical activity is important for disease control, gives you energy for everyday activities, and improves your mental health. Not to mention, it helps you keep a healthy weight, something many people struggle with.
Even though we know this, according to the early release of selected estimates based on data from a National Health Interview Survey, only 34.7% of U.S. adults aged 18 years and over engaged in regular physical activity for leisure activity last year.
The good news is that this percentage is higher than the 2008 estimate of 31.9%. This means that more people are engaging in either:
- Light to moderate physical activity in leisure time for at least 30 minutes at least five times per week
- Vigorous intensity physical activity in leisure time for at least 20 minutes at least three times per week
Now, the data doesn’t tell us why more people are physically active, but that doesn’t stop us from speculating, does it?
Just about everyone has heard that physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of preventable death. Not only that, but it is a risk factor for developing health problems such as anxiety, back pain, cancer, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. And yet, there are still a whole lot of people living a sedentary lifestyle with no (or irregular) physical activity.
There are many different reasons that people give for their sedentary behavior, including the following:
- I don’t have the time to exercise.
- I can’t get motivated to exercise.
- It’s inconvenient for me to exercise.
- I’m sore for days every time I try to exercise.
- I know I should exercise, but I just don’t want to.
Even more justifiably are reasons such as:
- I don’t know how to workout or do strength training
- I’m intimidated by going to the gym
- Everything hurts, and so will starting a fitness program
A personal trainer or fitness coach helps others turn these reasons into reasons for action. As you’ll see, staying active active has health benefits that will improve the physical sensation of working out. Further, aerobic activity improves the mood and provides us with feelings of confidence and self-efficacy–both of which lead to continuing regular exercise.
Here, we’ll explore the major health benefits of physical activity you can share with clients or loved ones to help transition them into movement.
Activity Is Preventative Medicine
Being physically active helps you live longer in a body that actually works instead of breaking down with disease. Aside from chronic disease related to physical inactivity (diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, etc.), regular physical activity is preventative in other areas. For example, weight bearing activity and strength training are related to preventing bone loss, and even sometimes increasing bine density. This is important as we get older to prevent osteoporosis. Further, it reduces the risk of bone breaks and fractures in the event of falls.
Similarly, it’s common for a functional physical fitness program to include balance training as part of its components. A balance exercise, like a single leg step to balance or a single leg squat, can help us with everyday activities and further prevent falls from happening in the first place.
Similarly, as we age we lose muscle and, therefore, muscle strength. Everyday activities like getting out of a car, opening containers, or catching ourselves as we misstep become even more challenging. Exercise, specifically muscle strengthening activities, are critical in our ability to remain independent and sustain our quality of life over time.
For all these reasons, maintaining a state of physical fitness, including flexibility training, strength training, endurance and aerobic activity are increasingly more critical as we age.
Regular Exercise Increases Energy
In order for you to be alive, your body needs energy (preferably through healthy eating). Your body gets its energy from the breakdown of nutrients like glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids. Metabolism is a process that breaks down some substances (this is catabolism) and builds up other substances (this is anabolism) for energy. Some energy is used immediately for transmitting nerve impulses and muscle contraction, and some energy is stored for later use.
Your metabolic set point is the base rate of metabolism that your body seeks to maintain–this results in your basal metabolic rate, the minimum energy required to keep your body alive when at rest. Several factors can influence your metabolic set point. If you go on a low calorie diet, your metabolic set point will become lower in order to conserve energy. If you are physically active, this will tend to keep your metabolic rate up, producing more energy.
Staying Active Improves Mental Health & Psychological Well-Being
There are several different ways in which exercise can affect the brain and make you feel better in body, mind, and psyche. For one, exercise promotes neurogenesis, which is the creation of new neurons (or nerve cells). Neurons are essential components of the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and sense organs – this is the control center of your body.
Physical activity can also serve to enhance your mood. You should know that physical activity increases concentrations of serotonin and norepinephrine. If you are depressed, you probably have low levels of these neurotransmitters. Exercise can help you recover from depression.
There is also a reciprocal relationship between serotonin and BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), where each stimulates production of the other. And let’s add the fact exercise actually promotes BDNF production as well.
Do you see that there is a very real probability that being physically active will result in you ending up in a good mood?
Also, as the body experiences stress or pain, the pituitary gland releases endorphins–these are brain chemicals that ease or suppress pain and can even promote euphoria, or a feeling of well-being. When you exercise, an increase in the release of endorphins occurs about half an hour into the activity. You may have heard of a little something called the “runner’s high.” This is a state of euphoria that many runners report having experienced during or after a prolonged period of exercise. Other athletes have similar “high” moments that are brought on by using their body to its maximum potential. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Of course, you do have to endure an initial amount of discomfort before you get the “high.” For some people, this payoff is enough to make them want to engage in long duration endurance exercise. Others are fine with just exercising enough to be put in a better mood.
As more people start to figure out the immediate effect that exercise can have on their mental health and happiness, by gradually increasing their activity level, they will start choosing to live a physically active lifestyle. Long-term benefits are easy for people to dismiss, as they have nothing to do with instant gratification and fulfillment of their wants and needs today. Let’s face it, most of us want what we want and we want it now. It doesn’t mean we always get it, but it doesn’t stop us from wanting. And the one thing that everybody really wants is to be happy.
Helping others achieve a better quality of life is a rewarding career. This is regardless of whether you choose to become an exercise physiologist or enter one of the other careers. When you choose one of these jobs you’ll get some (if not all) of these perks:
- The ability to take your own fitness to the next level
- Learn about something you love
- Help others lose weight and make major life changes
- Increase someone’s lifespan
- Help athletes perform their best
- Choose your own hours
- Make six figures
- Run your own business
As you can see, it’s pretty enticing to learn more about this type of study. Lionel University provides exercise science degree programs that can help you land a job in a health and fitness career.
You can earn an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree at Lionel. What’s even better is, included in your program, you’ll earn a personal training certification and other fitness certifications and specializations early on. This makes it easy for you to earn a living in the fitness space and test the waters. You’ll be able to figure out exactly what your long-term career goals are.