Physical fitness is essential for wellbeing, vitality and longevity. For a very long time exercise has been recognized as essential to quality life. Besides its many cellular and systemic benefits, exercise is the only means to maintain strength, endurance, flexibility and balance keeping us fit to conduct daily activities far into old age without any dependence.
Mark Houston, the American anti aging physician says, “Human physiology is designed around movement. For movement the necessary elements are bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Muscles are about 43% of the body weight in adult males and 36% in females. After the age of thirty there is about 5% loss of muscle mass every decade and also the bones start to loose minerals making them weak and prone to fall and fractures. Proper exercise is the way to stop this decline.
To function properly the muscles require energy. Glucose and fat are the available sources of energy for muscle cells. Fat dominates energy contribution at rest. But at the onset of exercise glycogen becomes the main source of energy. As exercise continues, fat metabolism becomes important. The intensity and duration of exercise as well as oxygen supply determines whether the muscles use fat or glucose as the source of energy.
Genetics of fitness
Genetic factors determine muscle size, bone mineralisation, lung capacity and metabolic capabilities and have direct influence on cardiovascular endurance. But genetics do not impede exercise; regardless of inherited characteristics exercise will lead to improvement.
Researchers in Sweden have shown that exercise induces changes in how genes operate making it easier or harder for the particular gene to respond to stimuli. The chemical, mechanical and thermal stimuli produced by exercise induce proportional physiological changes in metabolism and cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
Safety and exercise
It is important when starting a new exercise programme to get a health check to avoid running into problems especially in older people. Also avoid exercising outdoors in hot weather.
Sedentary life and chronic diseases
Physical inactivity is a major health problem and along with obesity and smoking are the most common causes of premature deaths. It is known that inactive people have twice the risk to develop heart disease than those who work out regularly.
Powers of Exercise
Researchers say proper and regular exercise increases life expectancy. Exercise causes the release of molecules that can alter gene expression which leads to reduction in systemic inflammation and oxidative stress and reversal of many aspects of aging. Regular exercise is associated with maintenance of cognitive function across a life span especially in people at higher risk for Alzhiemer’s disease.
Regular exercise increases serotonin and endorphins in the brain, it improves mood and reduces stress, anxiety and depression and gives a sense of euphoria. Exercise is vital for good cardiovascular health. It reduces risk of high blood pressure, decreases LDL cholesterol and increases HDL cholesterol and reduces risk of strokes.
Due to energy use in exercise weight management is better, increase in muscle mass as a result of exercise leads to increase in BMR. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity, reduces blood sugar and reduces risk of diabetes. Exercise may also reduce risk of certain cancers like colon, breast and prostate. Exercise improves self esteem and sexual health. Exercise improves sleep which is immensely beneficial for health and wellbeing
Before starting a session of exercise, warming up and stretching is important which can then lead to a combination of interval aerobic with anaerobic (endurance) exercises. Exercise in the morning on empty stomach is ideal. Hydration is important. Pay attention to the timing and type of food consumed after exercise. Physical activity should not be a haphazard activity.
To promote wellness and preventing chronic diseases consider frequency and duration of exercise, practice moderation. When starting a new programme a trainer or coach is advisable.