18 Feb 2009 - Story by Sifu Lawrence Hochobeb
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IT is a known fact that adding regular physical activity to one's daily routine will improve health and wellbeing. And that physical activity doesn't necessarily need to be strenuous for a person to enjoy benefits to health. Of course, by increasing the amount of physical activity (within reason), one will increase the amount of health benefits.
One of the most important benefits of physical activity is that it actually lessens a person's risk of developing or dying from some of the common causes of serious illness and death. The risk of developing colon cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes is reduced through regular physical activity. Being physically active has also been proven to help build healthy bones, joints, and muscles. Furthermore, regular physical activity reduces the overall risk of dying prematurely from any cause.
Benefits of physical activity and exercise include:
"Ã‚Â Increased cardiovascular fitness
Regular activity and exercise make for a healthier heart. A healthy heart is a strong heart that works efficiently and is able to easily supply the body with blood. The heart pumps blood, which carries oxygen to muscles and carries away waste. How well the heart performs is a good indication of how healthy a persons cardiovascular (the heart and the blood vessels) system is. Regular activity helps the cardiovascular system by improving circulation. Circulation is increased because physical activity increases a persons blood volume (amount). This makes it easier for the heart to function and more blood gets to muscles, meaning more oxygen is carried to the muscles. Exercise and activity also help reduce a persons chances of developing high blood pressure or hypertension. Additionally, physical fitness reduces the risk of suffering a serious consequence, such as a stroke, from high blood pressure.
"Ã‚Â Gain strength
Strength is the ability to resist force. Muscles constantly resist force. The more strength a person has, the easier it is for his or her muscles to resist greater force. Just as regular physical activity builds strength, it also builds muscle endurance. Similar to cardiovascular endurance, muscle endurance means that muscles are able to work for longer periods of time.
"Ã‚Â Build stronger bones
Physical activity not only builds muscles, it builds stronger bones. The bones that will be strengthened are those that are directly affected by the activity being done. This is why doing a variety of muscle-strengthening activities on a regular basis is important. Having thicker, healthier bones helps combat arthritis, a disease that involves the chronic inflammation of the joints, and osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a disease that gradually weakens bones, making them so fragile that they can fracture easily during everyday activities. Building stronger bones during adolescence will help combat diseases such as osteoporosis later in life.
"Ã‚Â Breathe easy
As people grow older, their lung capacity (amount of air the lungs hold) grows smaller. Cardiovascular activity and exercise can combat this because aerobic activities actually increase lung capacity. So while lung capacity will continue to diminish because of age, with regular activity, it will do so at a slower rate.
"Ã‚Â Boost energy
Physical activity and exercise require energy, as does everything. In addition to expending energy, however, physical activity also gives people increased energy throughout the entire day. The immune system, too, gets a big boost from regular physical activity. A healthy immune system helps fight colds, cancer, and other diseases, and speeds recovery from all kinds of injuries.
"Ã‚Â Improve flexibility
Young people are usually quite flexible. But as with lung capacity, flexibility diminishes as people grow older. Activities and exercises that increase flexibility are helpful in preventing injuries. The more flexible a person is, the less likely he or she is to suffer a sprain or strain a muscle while doing everyday things or while being active.
"Ã‚Â Improve concentration
Concentration is important for learning and understanding new things and being able to perform well in all aspects of life. Being physically active and exercising can help improve concentration. This means that a person will be able to be more focussed and perform better in class or during other activities. Staying physically fit has also been found to help people maintain memory longer in their lives. As people get older, their memory skills can deteriorate, and physical activity and exercise can help ward off this effect for some time.
"Ã‚Â Lower anxiety
Many people suffer from depression and anxiety. A person may feel just depressed or anxious or experience both depression and anxiety at the same time. Depression can cause people to feel sad, tired, and/or hopeless and suffer from low self-esteem. Anxiety causes feelings of panic. Both conditions can be treated by medication. Physical activity and exercise can help relieve feelings of depression and lower a persons anxiety.
"Ã‚Â Handle stress better
Stress is a normal part of every persons life. It is actually necessary to have some stress in life. Otherwise, a person would have no motivation for self-improvement or hard work. However, too much stress can cause many health problems. Some symptoms of stress include anxiety, high blood pressure, irritability, tense muscles, headaches, stomach aches and lower resistance to illness. Physical activity and exercise, especially noncompetitive activity, help to manage stress. They give a person the opportunity to feel calmer and more alert, which can help a person work through the things that are causing the stress. They also boost the immune system, so resistance to illness will increase.
"Ã‚Â Build self-confidence and self-esteem
Low self-confidence and self-esteem can cause a person to engage in harmful behaviours, such as self-mutilation, drug addiction, or disordered eating. People with high self-confidence and self-esteem are usually happy with themselves, outgoing, and positive. They take pride in accomplishments and are able to stand up for themselves. They are not afraid of taking on new challenges and are not afraid of failure. Physical activity and exercise can increase self-confidence and self-esteem.
"Ã‚Â Feel calmer and sleep soundly
While physical activity and exercise can make people feel more alert during the day, they also allow people to feel calmer and sleep more soundly. When people are active, their body temperature rises and warms their insides. This soothes the body, like a warm bath, and causes a person to feel calmer. This feeling, along with the lower anxiety and stress and physical benefits of physical activity and exercise, helps a person to sleep soundly at night.
EXERCISE IS FOR EVERYONE!
Sifu Lawrence Hochobeb is the founder and Chief Instructor of Namibia Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy. He can be contacted at: 0812782121.