Doing regular exercise is extremely important for maintaining good standards of general health and reducing the possibility of suffering from serious, potentially life threatening health conditions.

What are the benefits of exercise?

Exercise has numerous benefits and can positively affect all areas of a person’s life. The most important physiological, psychological and social benefits are outlined below:

Physiological benefits:

  • Regular exercise has been proven to halve the risk of suffering from the following conditions:
  • Type 2 diabetes
    • Coronary heart disease
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Stronger bones
  • Stronger muscle tone
  • Improved circulation
  • Stable body weight
  • Reduced risk of cancer
  • Increased levels of HDL (this is the good cholesterol in the body)
  • Increased energy levels

Psychological benefits:

  • Reduced levels of stress
  • Increased confidence
  • Reduced risk of depression in later life
  • Better sleep patterns

Social benefits:

  • Opportunity to meet new people
  • More confidence in social situations

How much exercise should I do?

Health experts recommend that adults should do at least 5 thirty minute sessions of moderate exercise per week; moderate exercise includes any physical activity which causes the heart rate to rise and the body temperature to increase; it does not need to be a vigorous cardiovascular workout. If you don’t consider yourself as much of a gym bunny, why not try a team sport or something a bit more daring like canoeing, rock climbing or hiking? If you want to exercise with friends to make it a bit more fun, try joining an aerobics, spinning or dance class.

Making simple changes

Making small changes to your lifestyle can have a huge impact on your health. At home, gardening and doing housework get the heart rate up and burn calories. Try walking to work or into town instead of driving or taking the bus and use stairs instead of using a lift or an escalator; if you have a lot of time on your hands join a gym, exercise class or sports club; this will enable you to meet new people and take on a new challenge as well as improving your health. Try to encourage children to walk to school and join after school sports clubs.

You can burn a lot of calories just doing household chores; for example, gardening can burn up to 400 calories an hour and doing the hoovering can burn 200 calories per hour.

How many calories will I burn during exercise?

The number of calories you burn during exercise depends on how intensive the exercise is and what kind of activity you’re taking part in; the list below shows the amount of calories you will burn doing some of the most common physical activities for 1 hour (this is a general guide, each person is different so they will burn different numbers of calories):

  • Swimming: around 500 calories
  • Jogging: around 600 calories
  • Football: around 500 calories
  • Tennis: around 550 calories
  • Dancing: around 350 calories
  • Walking: around 150 calories
  • Cycling: around 500 calories (gentle cycling)

Important things to remember when exercising

There are a few important things that you should remember when exercising; these include warming up and cooling down thoroughly, eating properly, staying hydrated and wearing and using the correct equipment.

  • Doing a warm-up prepares the body for exercise by increasing blood flow to the muscles and increasing the body temperature, while doing a cool-down relaxes the muscles and encourages the drainage of waste products (such as lactic acid) from the muscles; both these processes will reduce the risk of both acute and chronic injuries.
  • If you are exercising regularly it is important that your body gets the fuel it needs to function properly; if you have a very active lifestyle you should increase your daily calorie intake to ensure your body gets the nourishment it needs.
  • Hydration is extremely important as water has numerous important roles in the body. During exercise, water is lost through sweat and it must be replaced in order to ensure the body can continue to function properly and prevent illness and injury. Dehydration can cause a decrease in performance levels as well as making the body feel weaker and contributing to muscle aches.
  • It is important to wear the right clothing and use the right equipment during exercise, as this will help to prevent injuries and accidents.