Benefits of Personal Fitness

human body

With the recent pandemic of obesity, diabetes and a whole host of additional debilitating diseases in the United States, there are infinite reasons why you should take an active approach to maintaining and improving your health and fitness. While many of the reasons may seem obvious, there are a whole host of additional benefits that are less apparent.

The benefits of actively maintaining your personal fitness level will enhance all aspects of your quality of life. While it may seem as though focusing on your personal health, fitness, and mental well-being is time consuming, the benefits you receive will far outweigh any of the commitments necessary to ensuring your personal health. In fact, many studies have shown that by taking the time to define and implement a physical exercise routine into your daily lifestyle will assist your body and mind in organizing your time more efficiently. In addition, you will want to regularly consume a well balanced diet that is comprised of whole foods that are nutritional rich.

Performing an exercise routine with regularity increases your resting metabolic rate and your overall energy level. Below are five basic benefits of personal fitness and why they are so vitally important to living a long and healthy life.

Physical Fitness and Weight Loss

The United States is currently the most overweight nation per capita in the world. Most overweight individuals are undernourished as well. Being overweight increases your risk of developing several health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, diabetes, hypertension, various types of cancer, gout and gallbladder disease.

In addition, being overweight can lead to problems such as sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during sleep) and osteoarthritis. The more overweight an individual, the more likely they are to have health problems. However, by simply losing weight, an individual can drastically reduce their risk of developing many of the illnesses listed above.

In fact, several studies have shown that an individual can improve their overall health by losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds. Below is an additional list of health benefits associated with physical exercise.

Additional Benefits Associated with Regularly Performing a Physical Activity or Exercise Routine

    Physical Benefits

  • Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer
  • Promotes the loss of excess body weight
  • Assists in controlling healthy body weight
  • Reduces risk of heart attack
  • Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • Reduces the risk of dying prematurely
  • Reduces the risk of dying from heart disease
  • Reduces the risk of developing diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure
  • Helps reduce blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure
  • Increases muscle strength
  • Slows the loss of muscle mass

Mental Benefits

  • Improves self-image
  • Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Helps control your appetite
  • Greater resistance to stress, anxiety and fatigue
  • Helps you to relax and feel less tense
  • Increases productivity at work

Quality of Life Benefits

  • Improves the ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly
  • Promotes a longer, healthier life
  • Improves mobility and balance
  • Reduces joint and muscle pain
  • Increases energy levels and capacity for physical work and leisure activities
  • Lowers risk of falls and serious injuries like hip fractures
  • Improves coordination, balance and reflexes
  • Increases strength in older adults and reduces the likelihood of falling
  • Increases stamina, strength and flexibility
  • Improves efficiency of the heart and lungs

With so many adults and children in America being overweight, we thought it would be appropriate to designate an entire section of our website to the sole purpose of addressing weight loss. Within the Weight Loss section of our website you will find articles that are focused on providing you with the latest research and studies relevant to obesity.

In addition, you will find articles that will assist you with setting your weight loss goals, determining your body fat content and Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), determining your optimum weight, healthy dietary recommendations, nutritious food recipes, fitness programs that are designed to promote weight loss, motivational tips and techniques, and a whole host of additional information related to weight loss.

Confidence and Self Esteem

increased self-confidence

Confidence and self esteem are probably one of the most common reasons why most individuals choose to improve their personal health and fitness level. Being overweight, obese or even out of shape tends to affect our perception of ourselves, our capabilities, and overall our self-esteem.

The negative mental side effects of being overweight or out of shape include self-doubt, dependence, taking things too personally, lack of trust, feelings of inferiority, feeling unloved, irresponsible behavior, severe self criticism and low self-worth.

Everyone wants to be self-confident. Everyone wants to be free of self-doubt, worry and anxiety, and everyone wants to ooze with the infectious appeal that comes with self-confidence. In short, everyone wants to trust and believe in themselves.

By working out, losing weight and building muscle, you will begin to replace your low self-esteem with pride and self confidence. Not only confidence in your physical appearance, but confidence that you are able to set goals, follow through and stick with them, and thereafter achieve them.

Defining a goal and then attaining that goal is something that will fill you with a sense of pride and accomplishment. This newly gained confidence will then flow into virtually every aspect of your life, including things such as dating, personal relationships, work and sports.

Increased Energy

Individuals that exercise on a regular basis have more energy than those that do not. "Contrary to popular belief, exercising does not make you tired. Instead, it literally creates energy in your body.

"Your body rises up to meet the challenge for more energy by becoming stronger," says nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a nutritional adviser for the Journey for Control diabetes program. In addition, Heller states that this increase in energy occurs at the cellular level.

"It all begins with tiny organs called mitochondria. Mitochondria are located in our cells and they work like tiny power plants to produce energy," she says. While some of that energy comes from your diet (one reason that eating too little can power down your metabolism), the number of mitochondria you have - and thus your ability to produce energy - is affected by your daily activity.

"For example, the more you exercise aerobically, the more mitochondria the body makes to produce more energy to meet your needs, which is one reason how - and why - regular cardiovascular exercise actually creates more available energy for your body," says Heller.

Increased Cognitive Capacities

improved cognitive capacity

Working out on a consistent basis increases blood flow throughout your entire body, including your brain. By increasing the blood flow (and thus, oxygen) to your brain, you are creating a mind that will operate at a higher level of clarity and functionality. Oxygen is one of the primary catalysts needed for many of the chemical processes that take place within our brains. This being said, the more oxygen that is available throughout the brain, the more often these reactions occur.

"Exercise increases energy levels and increases serotonin in the brain, which facilitates an improved level of mental clarity," says David Atkinson, director of program development for Cooper Ventures, a division of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas."

While anyone with a brain exercises with at least a moderate level of frequency - Did you know exercise can return the favor and train your brain? Not only is exercise smart for your heart and weight, but it can make you smarter and better at what you do.

I like to say that exercise is like taking a little Prozac or a little Ritalin at just the right moment," says John J. Ratey, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of A User's Guide to the Brain.

"Exercise is really for the brain, not the body. It affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being." Ratey cites studies of children who ran around for 15 to 45 minutes before class and cut their ants-in-the-pants behavior by half when they got to class. As with most exercise, the effects were relatively lasting - smoothing out behavior two to four hours after the exercise.

Ratey also points to some preliminary animal research that suggests that exercise can cause new stem cells to grow, refreshing the brain and other body parts. According to Ratey, exercise also stimulates nerve growth factors. "I call it Miracle-Gro for the brain," he says."

Decreased Illness and Disease

Physical activity contributes to your overall level of health by reducing your resting heart rate, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and reducing the amount of bone loss that is associated with age and osteoporosis. Physical activity also helps your body use calories more efficiently, thereby promoting weight loss and weight maintenance. In addition, physical exercise can increase your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns in an average day), reduces appetite, and assists in the reduction of body fat.

Here are a couple of questions for you to answer honestly: Are you suffering from another cold? Do you generally feel fatigued all the time? If you answered yes to either of these questions, the remedy may be as easy as taking a daily walk or participating in a simple exercise program a few times a week. Exercise not only helps your immune system fight off bacterial and viral infections, but it may actually decrease the occurrence of illnesses such as heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.

So how could the simple act of exercising cause a strengthening of your immune system? There are currently several theories directed at specifically answering this question. First, physical activity may boost your immune system by flushing bacteria from the lungs (thus decreasing the chances of contracting a cold, flu or other airborne illness). In addition, physical activity may flush out carcinogens (cancer-causing cells) by increasing your waste output through urination and sweat.

Another possible reason why physical activity boosts your immune system is that exercise is responsible for sending antibodies and white blood cells (the body's defense cells) through your body at a faster rate. As these antibodies and white blood cells circulate through your body more rapidly, they may detect illnesses earlier than they would have otherwise. The increased circulation of our blood may also trigger the release of hormones that alert our immune cells of any intruding bacteria or viruses.

In addition, the temporary elevation of your body temperature may prohibit bacterial growth, thus allowing your body to fight the infection more effectively. This is similar to what occurs when you have a fever. Finally, exercise slows down the release of stress-related hormones. While elevated stress levels increase your chances of illness, simply slowing down the release of these stress-related hormones may reverse this factor.

Studies have shown that the individuals that benefit the most from starting and maintaining a fitness routine are those that go from a sedentary lifestyle to that of a moderately active lifestyle. A moderate fitness program may solely consist of a daily 20 to 30 minute walk, working out at the fitness center 3 or 4 times per week, regularly playing golf, or even going for a bike ride with your children a few times a week.

While the medical community is not exactly sure of how and why exercise increases our immunity to a host of different illnesses, they do know that exercise helps. Physical fitness decreases our chances of developing heart disease, many types of cancer, osteoporosis, and even helps us to avoid those nagging coughs and colds. Finally, exercise almost always improves your self-confidence, motivation and mental well-being, just by making you feel more energetic and healthier.

playing with kids

As you can see, the physical and mental benefits associated with taking an active approach to your personal fitness are countless. Life is too short to muddle through it with a low energy level, frequent illnesses, and possibly the premature contraction of a debilitating disease.

Living a lifestyle that is focused on your personal fitness goals, coupled with the consumption of a well balanced and nutritious diet, will promote a lifestyle that is filled with optimism, contentment and a sense of fulfillment .

In fact, virtually all aspects of your life will be enhanced when you regularly make good health and fitness a part of your overall lifestyle.

If you are new to the concept of taking an active approach in your personal fitness level, we recommend that you read through several of the articles under the "Getting Started" section of our website as there are several health and fitness tips that help to ensure that you get off on the right foot. Finally, if you would like to receive additional health and fitness tips directed at increasing your fitness level, dietary recommendations, and techniques designed to calm and focus your mind, please feel free to sign-up for our newsletter.