Ask SK: “Do I have to exercise to be healthy?”
Sarah-Kate (“SK”) is a board certified nurse practitioner licensed in California and a co-founder at The Mindful Tech Lab. Send your questions to AskSK@themindfultechlab.com for the chance to have your questions answered and featured here!
This question is from one of our readers, Nancy from Boston. This is a very common question I get in practice as well as from our online community. Exercising is one of the very best things you can do for your mind and body, and is extremely important for your overall health.
Below lists the top 10 reasons to exercise daily:
1. Increases insulin sensitivity
The less insulin you need the better your health will be, period. Exercise makes your insulin work better, meaning less insulin is needed to get sugar out of your blood – because too much sugar in your blood is toxic). Insulin acts as the driving force behind weight gain – which is why it is referred to as the fat storage hormone – as well Type II Diabetes. Read more about this here.
2. Mood boosting
Exercise is the number one natural way to relieve stress and boost feelings of happiness. Exercising the body causes chemical reactions in your cells that will stimulate the feel good hormones and at the same time suppress the stress hormones.
3. Prevents muscle and joint pain
According to the Mayo Clinic, “exercise is crucial for people with arthritis” aka joint pain. This is because exercise increases range of motion, strengthens the muscles around joints, increases flexibility, and helps to maintain bone strength.
4. Boosts metabolism
The best exercises to boost metabolism include high intensity interval training and strength training, but all forms of exercise will boost metabolism to some degree. As we get older our metabolism starts to decline, meaning we need less food to keep us at our present weight. Hormones also change as we age that can make us more likely to gain weight and hold onto fat. For this reason, having an exercise regimen in place is key and sooner rather than later because it gets harder to change habits as time goes on.
5. Keeps your bones strong
Putting pressure on your bones makes them stronger and decreases chance of bone fractures as you age. Weight bearing activities are the best ways to strengthen your bones, where you are using gravity as resistance to the exercise. These types of exercises include strength training, walking, running, and circuit training. Fractures are extremely common with age, so protect yourself as much as you can now.
6. Lowers blood sugar naturally
Exercising causes your muscles to burn through strings of sugar called glycogen to be used for energy. When glycogen gets depleted from exercise, the body will restore the glycogen by taking in glucose from the blood. The more muscle you have, the greater amount of glucose you can store as glycogen – and the more muscle you have, the more glycogen you are going to burn through. This is why having more muscle will help to keep your blood sugar normal. Read more about this here.
7. Increases energy
Exercise increases hormones in your body that wake you up, help with concentration, and keep you focused to tackle your daily activities. This is why I recommend individuals exercise in the morning or earlier in the day when possible to reap all of energy-boosting benefits.
8. Improves sleep
Exercising daily is one of the best ways to get your body ready for sleep. Ideally you should exercise in the morning or afternoon, and avoid vigorous exercise right before bed because that can make you revved up and make it harder for you to fall asleep.
9. Decreases constipation and bloating
Use gravity to help get things moving. Exercise that is best for this includes anything upright, such as jump rope or running. In this way gravity is helping to pull things down your digestive tract for elimination.
10. Increases good cholesterol
Exercise is one of the very best ways to increase your HDL cholesterol, aka “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is closely linked to heart health, and the higher the HDL, the greater the protective benefit. The other main ways to boost HDL cholesterol involve maintaining a health weight and eating a healthy diet.
To answer the above question, yes, you do have to exercise for health. The key is to make exercise fun and do exercise that you like doing. Exercise can be anything that gets you moving, whether it be dancing or rock climbing, all forms of exercise are great!
About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy-league trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner licensed in California with an expertise in preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Sarah-Kate is also a co-founder of The Mindful Tech Lab
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