There are numerous benefits to having an active lifestyle; from a better cardiovascular system, to better posture, balance and breathing, and even a decreased risk of developing major diseases.
The importance of being in good physical shape
The main benefit of achieving and maintaining a good state of health and fitness lies in the fact that we are able to perform our daily activities effectively, with good levels of strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness. Increasing our level of activity reduces our likelihood of developing diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer.
In order to improve our health, it is important to stay physically active, as well as to follow a few guidelines proposed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), in collaboration with the American Heart Association (AHA). These recommendations are for everyone between 18 and 65 years old. They generally recommend performing at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
Specific benefits of exercise:
- Better cardiovascular system. The heart contracts effectively, and blood circulates with less effort, which improves the blood supply to the coronary arteries. Consistent exercise can reduce the heart rate, even while at rest. It also improves the elasticity of blood vessels, which helps to keep the blood pressure down.
- Stronger musculoskeletal system. The relative increase in bone and muscle mass and muscle strength and flexibility helps prevent osteoporosis and sarcopenia, while at the same time supporting the spine and muscles in general. Being active also helps prevent falls and fractures in the elderly.
- Improved breathing. Exercise increases the ability of the lungs' alveoli to dilate and take in oxygen, and helps ensure an adequate respiratory volume by limiting the reduction that naturally occurs with age.
- Improved metabolism and body composition. Physical activity helps reduce body fat mass, increase lean body mass, and improves the lean to fat mass ratio. Energy expenditure increases, which helps control body weight.
- Good psychosocial aspects. With a better state of health, we are able to enjoy life more and do all sorts of activities for longer periods of time. Taking part in sports groups also helps develop social relationships, and reduces the risk of depression and anxiety.
There are four types of physical activity:
Aerobic – stimulates the cardiorespiratory system and improves metabolism; this includes activities like swimming, cycling, running, and even brisk walking.
Muscle strengthening – helps maintain efficient muscles through activities like weight lifting.
Balance and stretching – helps reduce the risk of falls and trauma, while at the same time maintaining the elasticity of muscles and tendons and improving postural stability.