Dr Kate Gregorevic is a geriatrician and internal medicine physician. Through her work she has come to understand how lifestyle plays a huge part in our ability to live a long and healthy life. In this article Dr Kate reflects on the top reasons why exercise is so important to her health, and the health of our community.
There is no denying that exercise is an excellent strategy for future health. Exercise is linked with a decreased risk of dementia, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death. The strength from exercise, particularly resistance training, is also a great way to keep the muscle strength that is so important for independence in our later years. While these benefits are compelling, they also feel very far away – something we can put off until tomorrow.
A far more motivating question is to ask yourself what health looks like today. I think of health as being ready to engage in life, ready to learn, feeling rested and socially connected. Exercise is a key part of creating this.
Here are my top five reasons to get active today.
1. Exercise is a mood booster
I’m sure many of you reading this have noticed that exercise can lift your mood quickly. When we move we increase blood flow in our brains and get a lot of changes in brain chemistry, which is why it makes us feel better. People who exercise regularly are less likely to get depression and exercise can even help as part of a treatment plan for depression. Both aerobic exercise and strength training have a positive impact on mood.
2. Exercise helps us learn
When we exercise, we feel more alert and ready to concentrate, but there are also biochemical changes in our brains that boost learning. Exercise can trigger our brain cells to produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which encourages connections between brain cells that help with learning.
3. Exercise is good for sleep
While there is some variability in findings of studies looking at exercise and sleep, most do report that people who exercise enjoy better sleep quality and duration. This effect seems to be particularly strong for people in middle and older age. Keep in mind that exercising too close to bedtime can be too stimulating for some and may interfere with sleep.
4. Exercise is good for self-efficacy
I love the feeling of achievement that comes at the end of a good workout. It feels great to know that I have done something great for myself. When many of our goals feel far away in the future, it can be really important to have something we are achieving today.
5. Exercise can help with weight maintenance
While exercise alone is not an effective tool for weight loss, it is an effective tool for weight maintenance. For people who have lost weight, being physically active can help to keep the weight off. Even beyond weight, exercise can help us to metabolise glucose, which can help to manage or prevent diabetes.
Sometimes it can feel hard to make exercise in a priority in our busy lives, but exercise isn’t an indulgence, it’s an essential act of self-care. Exercise isn’t something to put off for tomorrow, it’s something that is absolutely critical to enjoying the best health possible today.
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