Physical Activity Benefits

What is physical activity?

Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure such as working, playing, exercising, completing family unit tasks, traveling, and taking part in recreational interests or hobbies. In simple words, physical activity encompasses all activities, at any intensity, planned or unplanned performed during any time of day or night.

You should not confuse the word “physical activity” with “exercise” and “workout”, which are subclasses of physical activity that are planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful to improve or maintain physical fitness.

Besides exercise, any other physical activity such as walking to the local shop or class, cleaning the house, taking the stairs, working, and active transport has a health benefit. Additionally, both moderate and vigorous-intensity physical activity improves physical and mental health. The absence of physical activity will inevitably produce negative health results.

HEALTHY ACTIVITIES

Physical activity intensity

A physical activity is performed at a certain rate called intensity, it is also related to the extent of the effort required to perform an activity or workout. For example, carrying a heavy bag upstairs is a vigorous activity whereas working as a secretary in an office is a moderate activity.

How to measure the intensity of physical activity: Intensity of physical activity is usually measured by METs (Metabolic Equivalents) and 1 MET of a quietly sitting person is the burning of kilo calories per minute that is 1.2 kcal/min for an average person.

Levels of physical activity

Moderate-intensity physical activity (3-6 METs):

Physical activities of moderate intensity are generally related to the day-to-day tasks or of short endurance training:

  • Housework, domestic chores
  • Gardening (for 30-45 minutes)
  • Brisk walking (about 3-4 miles/hour)
  • Bicycling (for 30 minutes)
  • Dancing (for 30 minutes)
  • Tennis (double)
  • Golf
  • Canoeing
  • Water aerobics
  • Carrying or moving moderate weight(<20kg)

Vigorous-intensity physical activity (>6 METs):

If you take some of the activities or sports above and you increase the pace or the duration you change the level of physical activity. Vigorous activity can be performed for a relatively long time but require some efforts to keep moving:

  • Running (5 miles/hour)
  • Jogging (5 miles/hour)
  • Walking fast (4 miles/hour)
  • Climbing briskly/hiking up a hill with a heavy backpack
  • Bicycling (more than 10 miles/hour)
  • Heavy yard work, such as chopping wood
  • Fast swimming
  • Competitive sports and games (Basketball, volleyball, football, hockey)
  • Tennis (single)
  • Jumping rope
  • Aerobics(cardio)
  • Carrying or moving heavyweight (>20 kg)

However, the information provided above is only for regular people. If someone follows a good workout routine within tolerable limits then the body produces new cells and muscles that induce exercise adaptation. For example Eliud Kipchoge was able to run a marathon under 2 hours which means he was able to have an average pace that around 21.19 kilometers per hour (13.25 miles per hour) for almost 2 hours. He has become very efficient at this pace but most mere mortals who do not practice sport will feel like sprinting at the same speed. Adaptation may occur after 3-4 months of consistent training, it is a progressive process and you will see small improvement within a 16 weeks period.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

These are the following benefits of physical activity:

Benefits of physical activity on mental health

All physical activities, but specifically vigorous-intensity physical activity boost blood flow in the brain and oxygenates frontal areas of the brain. Physical activities have different benefits related to age such as:

Youth: The investigations say that school-age students who took part in vigorous exercise showed brain maturation and development, improved memory, creative skills, and received better grades and academic achievement.

Older adult: The studies showed that physical activity and exercise can increase neurotrophic factors. BDNF, glia-derived neurotrophic factor and exert neuroprotective effect, that improve dementia(memory), cognitive impairment issues and promotes neuroplasticity effect.

Across the Lifespan: Physical activity and exercise improve cognition, anxiety and depression, quality of life, and sleep. Sport is an excellent stress reliver, going for a work or to the gym after work helps to maintaining a balanced life.

Benefits of physical activity on health

Reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure: Physical activity and exercise strengthen your heart and improves your circulation. The oxygen levels in your body raise by increased blood flow. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, strokes, and heart attack. At least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can lower the risk for heart diseases. Regular physical activity can also lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol (triglyceride) levels.

Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: Regular physical activity or exercise can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome by managing blood sugar and insulin levels. PA or exercise can lower your blood sugar level and help your insulin work better. If you already have type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, exercise can help you to manage it.

Reduce the risk of some cancers: Research shows that people who take part in great number of physical activities have reduced risks of developing cancers of the:

  • Breast
  • Lung
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • Colon
  • Kidney
  • Bladder
  • Uterine
Woman doing Abs workout and dumbbells

Strengthen bones and muscles: Having healthy diet and doing regular aerobic, bone-strengthening and muscle-strengthening, physical activity at a moderately-intense level can help kids and teens build strong bones and increase or maintain your muscle mass and strength. It can also slow down the loss of bone density that comes with age later in life.

Skin health: Regular moderate-intensity physical activity stimulates your body to increase the production of antioxidants which protect cells. Physical activity also increases the blood flow and induce cell adaptation which help delay the skin aging.

Improve relaxation and sleep: Regular physical activity improve relaxation, sleep, and help in insomnia issues.

Improve sex life: Regular physical activity and exercise can strengthen the cardiovascular system, improve blood circulation, tone muscles and enhance flexibility, all these factors can improve your sex life- boost sex drive, sexual performance and sexual pleasure, and increase the rate of sexual activity.

Improve mood: Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals such as endorphin that make you feel happy, more relaxed, and less anxious.

How physical activity affect weight loss

Practicing physical activities can have a positive effect on weight loss. Here are some of them:

  • burn more calories per day and participate in calories deficit
  • non-aggressive workouts are good to keep a low level of cortisol
  • setting a fitness goal forces you to schedule your meals and to avoid junk foods
  • when you are busy exercising you are not overeating in front of the tv
  • reduce side effects of weight loss on the body shape

Most of the time weight loss is not attributed to the only practice of physical activities. But instead, working out contributes to an overall healthy lifestyle. To maintain the weight: Work up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. To lose weight: To lose weight you need a high amount of vigorous-intensity physical activity also adjust your diet and decrease the number of calories you are intaking.

Exercising for healthy weight gain

Strength and muscle growth are among the benefits of exercising. Gaining weight by combining strength training and a healthy diet allows muscle building. Who can benefit from it?

  • Skinny people
  • People who suffer from muscle weakness
  • People who need strong muscles to perform their work or day-to-day tasks
  • Athletes and any person practicing a sport
  • People who want to gain weight and maintain a healthy body fat

Unfortunately, young people in particular who are considered physically weak are often the target of bullies. Gaining muscles by working out is often a good way to become more confident. In addition, overweight people are not the only ones that have to deal with body-shaming. This is a serious issue that is not only related to a physical appearances. But generally, the ones who are able to surpass themselves at the gym to transform their bodies also gain in self-esteem and confidence.

Benefits of working out for women

For women who can schedule 3 to 5 training sessions a week here are some health benefits of exercise:

  • Decreases risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.
  • Keeps weight in check.
  • Helps counteract hormone-driven mood swings.
  • Reduces your dementia risk.
  • Reduces cancer risk.
  • Reduce cellulite.
  • Reduces stroke severity.
  • Prevents muscle loss (build and strengthen muscle).
  • Improves digestion.
  • Improves your sex life.
  • Improves your skin (get glowing skin)
  • Improves sleep.
  • Improves Mental Health (relieves stress, anxiety, depression, and enhances mental performance and work productivity).
  • Boosts immunity
  • Exercise beats the cramps throughout your cycle
  • Improve body shape (prevent saggy breasts, get a nice butt, slimmer waist, and flat stomach)

Recovery, workout intensity, and duration are very important to truly benefit from exercising. For example, it not rare to observe irregular periods for a professional female athlete or a marathoner. For better results, it is better to alternate endurance training, HIIT, and rest days.

Social benefits of physical activity

Enjoying a good NBA game with families and going to a track and field meeting with friends are great examples of how sporting events facilitate social interactions. Any sport event is a good opportunities to meet new people and to spend some quality time outside. What if you were the one exercising.

Well, going to the gym or being part of a group of people working out together is also a way of socializing. I remember meeting up with my friends every week for hiking, this was a moment of exchange: talking about everything, and having a good time. And, for example, the member of a team need to cooperate to win a game or a competition.

Outdoor activities in a public park. 
 Man walking fast, woman walking dog, and kid exercising

How much exercises to weight loss?

Although the most effective way to lose weight is by controlling your food intake, exercising can help. Provided that you do not eat more than the recommended daily portion, you will certainly benefit from working out.

To lose modest weight: 50 to 250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity.

To lose a significant weight: More than 250 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise with dietary intervention. That is mean at least 35 minutes per day.

To lose a substantial amount of weight or more than 5% of your body weight: More than 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity.

What are the downsides of too much exercise?

These are the following downsides of too much exercise:

  • A drop in energy
  • Aches and pain
  • Fatigue
  • Decrease appetite
  • Gout problem
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Excessive weight loss
  • A shaky immunity
  • Weakened bones
  • Poor mental health
  • Joint problems
  • Missing periods

Theses issues are often related other problems such as: poor training schedule, training that do not match level of fitness, not enough recovery, bad sleeping or eating habits.

How much exercise is too much?

Doing Ironman and 70.3 events and training more than 15 hours per week, is too much according to the guidelines. That does not mean that you should not try them but people who are successful in this kind of event need to take extra measure to stay healthy:

  • Controlled and balanced diet specific to their event
  • Follow exact recovery methods
  • Manage sleep schedule (around 8 hours per night)
  • Be cautious about equipment and more

In the end, physical activities will be beneficial if you do it properly and stay consistent. Whether you are an athlete training for competitions or not you can benefit from exercising weekly.


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