Updated: Apr 2, 2020
Table of contents
What is exercise?
Types of exercise
Health effects of exercise
How it works
What is exercise?
Exercise is any bodily action performed that temporarily increases the heart-rate. When done correctly, exercise can increase overall fitness and health. Doing any amount of exercise is better than doing none.
Related: 5 Benefits of exercise
Types of exercise
There are three main types of exercise. These include:
Aerobic exercise: Exercise that uses large muscle groups and increases the amount of oxygen the body needs to maintain movement. This type of exercise increases overall cardiovascular endurance; meaning you can continue for longer periods of time. Examples consist of running, cycling, swimming etc...
Anaerobic exercise: Exercise that increases size, strength and firmness of muscles whilst simultaneously increasing bone density. Examples consist of weight-training, Interval training, explosive aerobic movements etc...
Flexibility exercise: Exercise that reduces the chance of injury when executing the above movements. This is done by increasing the range of motion and lengthening the muscles so they don't 'pull' under strenuous exercise, causing damage.
Health effects of exercising
Exercise has a multitude of effects on your health, almost all are positive. Here are a few examples:
Fitness: This directly correlates to the increase of movement. The amount of muscle a person can gain is primarily controlled by the diet and testosterone levels in the body. Women have less testosterone in their body, therefore they can't grow as much muscle as males.
Immune System: There have been many hundreds of studies on the correlation between the immune system and exercise. Many have returned negligible evidence. Some have even returned slightly decreased immunity due to suppressed lymphocytes in the body. However, it is still believed that exercise strengthens the immunity of a person.
Illnesses: Studies on cancer and other life-threatening illnesses have been conducted with supporting evidence that exercise decreases the risk of these illnesses. Certain cancers like breast and colon have been shown to decrease as much as 10% when the individual exercises regularly.
Neurobiological (brain): Exercise has been shown to dramatically increase cognitive function. It can also decrease the chance of neurodegenerative disorders; particularly Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. The human brain remains in a heightened state of functionality up to 2 hours after exercise.
Mental illnesses: Exercise is actually classified as an antidepressant due to its euphoriant neurochemicals. Clinical trials support the efficacy of exercise as a treatment for depression. The biosynthesis of three euphoriants causes a feeling of joy. This is known as 'Runner's high' in the running community.
Sleep: Analysis of exercise in conjunction with sleep suggests that exercise can aid insomnia sufferers.
Libido: A single study conducted in 2013 found that exercising potentially improved sexual arousal issues that arose with antidepressant consumption.
How it works
When you perform an aerobic exercise you are subsequently increasing cardiac volume, allowing for a higher VO2 max and a lower resting heart rate. Similarly, anaerobic exercise increases the myocardial thickness of the heart.
Strength training (when done correctly) creates microtears on the target muscles. These muscles then call on protein present in the body to promote muscular hypertrophy. These microtears are essentially 'patched' over with new muscle fibre. Subsequentially increasing overall strength and size of the muscle.
Exercise has been known to beneficial for thousands of years. However, only recently have we discovered why this is. In 1953, a team led by Jerry Morris noticed that bus drivers and bus conductors had a vastly different chance of having a heart attack. Because of bus drivers more sedentary lifestyle, they were more likely do die from a heart attack than a bus conductor as they were significantly more active.
Non-mammals don't seem to benefit from exercise nearly as much as humans. For instance, salmon only saw a slight improvement from endurance training along with a majority of lizards. However, insufficient evidence is available to draw accurate conclusions from these studies.
Exercise is immensely beneficial to humans for a multitude of reasons. Illness prevention, strength building, increased endurance, improved cognitive ability and lowered chance of depression. You can read more about each of these topics by clicking on the links below.
What are 5 benefits of exercise?
Can you get in shape in 30 days?
How to exercise effectively without equipment