BLOG #2: Exercise is classically defined as: activity that requires physical or mental exertion, especially when performed to develop or maintain fitness.
The above definition deserves several other qualifiers: it is protracted physical activity that involves multiple muscle groups and is at least mildly strenuous (associated with increased heart and respiratory rate), sustained over at least 20 minutes. Any activity such as this, performed at least every other day, results in increased cardio-respiratory system capacity and efficiency (functionality), an increased ability and capacity to accomplish physical work, and is strongly associated with healthfulness.
In our modern-day cosmopolitan society, getting exercise is a conscious, lifestyle decision. There are so many distractions, “labor-saving” devices, and other priorities that interfere with putting time and energy into this important activity. While participation in regular exercise offers significant health benefits and a higher quality of life, only a distinct minority (in the USA--25%) actually do such activity.
Research and statistics support the idea that lack of exercise (chronic lack of movement) contribute to many disease states. Lack of exercise is a major factor in loss of muscle mass, especially in people age 40-50 years old, which results in a serious loss of functionality during this particular decade of life.
When a person exercises regularly, he/she improves or maintains their ability –and capacity—to do work. This allows participation in a greater variety of activities, especially those that might involve increased adversity (outdoor sports). Exercise therefore allows people to participate and actually enjoy many activities, rather than be intimidated or injured by such. It tends to promote self-esteem, and it allows greater choices for a broader range of activities.
There are numerous benefits of exercise that can be described on many levels and in many ways:
The fundamental stimulus of forceful and repeated muscle contraction induces intra-cellular and micro-vascular changes that generally result in an increased capacity of muscles to perform work. Such improved functionality can happen to different degrees based on power, acceleration, and/or duration of time demanded by the exercise involved.
At a tissue level, exercise induces more active maintenance of dense collagen structures –especially tendons and musculo-tendinous transition zones—such that increased strength of these areas reduces incidence of injury (strain) and /or allows more efficient repair (see also Blog#1—Stretching).
Physical activity that produces elevated and sustained heart and respiratory rates increases the duration and flow of blood to tissues and organs and is called aerobic exercise. This type of sustained activity has health benefits that are generally not mentioned by most health practitioners: sustained /profound deep breathing fundamentally improves venous circulation and supports immune capacity.
Deep breathing primarily comes from contraction of the diaphragm (a broad, thin, flat muscle that separates thorax and abdomen) which produces a negative pressure within the thorax. This pulls air into the lungs, which allows oxygen to be absorbed into blood, while metabolic by-products (esp. carbon dioxide) can be released.
Contraction of the diaphragm additionally pulls (actually—sucks…) venous blood and lymphatic fluid towards the thorax from all regions of the body. Promoting venous return reduces fluid congestion and stagnation in tissues and in organs and therefore is beneficial to health. Promoting better/improved lymphatic drainage of tissues and organs allows one’s lymphatic system to recognize—and respond sooner and more vigorously—to foreign substances that can and do find their way into our bodies.
So, dear Patients and website Guests—do yourselves a great favor and establish an exercise regimen! If you have sustained an injury, find a way to continue to exercise—the benefits far outweigh any risks!
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