By John Voelz – Doctor of Physical Therapy
So often when we exercise, we tend to think that the activity is only affecting our heart, blood circulation and muscles. There are so many other benefits to regular exercise that I thought I’d go through them one at a time:
Muscles: yes, exercise benefits your muscle tissue by making it stronger. But training your muscles actually helps to use blood sugar (decreasing your risk of diabetes). Additionally, exercising your muscle tissue trains it to take up and use oxygen more efficiently which helps with your overall endurance when performing daily activities.
Lungs: when performing cardiovascular exercise, your body may need up to 15 times the amount of oxygen than when you’re at rest. This means that your lungs and blood circulation need to work together in order to deliver that much needed oxygen to the working muscle tissue. Regular aerobic activity strengthens the chest and diaphragm muscles that power lung expansion. In other words, your lung capacity increases because your lungs are able to “pull in more air.”
Heart: Ok, we all know this…….your heart benefits from exercise. Specifically, your heart muscle becomes stronger, just like any other muscle that is exercised. This means more blood can be pumped to the working muscles, and that helps to deliver much needed oxygen and nutrients.
Hippocampus: this is a very important part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Exercise increases blood flow to this part of the brain — recent research shows that new brain cells can actually be created with the additional healthy blood flow. Learning and memory can actually be preserved and enhanced with exercise!!
Brain: there is growing evidence that exercise enhances the function of the brain especially in aging adults. Aside from enhanced blood circulation, exercise seems to produce something very important for brain health: BDNF – Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This is a substance found in the brain, and enhanced with exercise, that promotes the health of brain cells. Simply put, exercise enhances brain function, and scientists are proving this more and more each day.
Skin: when you exercise, internal body heat increases. Your body needs a way to dissipate and release that heat, so it does something very healthy for your skin……it dilates skin blood vessels in order to release heat and lower your body temperature. This means that regular exercise will increase the amount of blood flow to your skin, keeping it more healthy and vibrant.
Joints: as people age, they notice the stiffness and soreness in their joints. This is a normal “wear and tear” that occurs due to the degradation of joint cartilage. Keeping the muscles that surround the joints strong improves the stability of those joints. This is important since good joint stability can decrease the effects of arthritic joint disease. Very often, people who are considering knee joint replacements can indefinitely prolong the surgery if they simply strengthen the leg and hip muscles that support the knee.
There are so many other benefits from exercise that reach very specific organs and functions within the body. If you have any questions about this subject or anything else regarding your program, please stop in!