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You’ve likely been told from a young age that regular exercise is vital for staying healthy and living a longer life. As early as in elementary school gym and health classes, you’ve probably been taught that you should get at least moderate exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week. However, four in every five Americans don’t exercise quite that often.
Just because 80% of folks don’t get the recommended amount of exercise doesn’t mean that it’s not important. How does exercise affect your body? This blog offers a quick rundown of how exercise works and what it can do for your health.
1. Exercise increases cardiovascular strength
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans. Medical experts thus recommend regular exercise to make the heart stronger and more resistant to stress. The very first physical response to exercise reflects this need: At the start of exercise, you’ll probably notice your heart rate increase as it becomes more difficult to catch your breath.
Anyone who achieves ample amounts of aerobic (heart-related) exercise is likely to note that with increased frequency of exercise comes a stronger ability to handle the ways that increased heart rate impacts the body. This tendency is proof of how exercise strengthens the heart. Additionally, exercise helps keep blood pressure in check, which in turn affects your cardiovascular health.
2. Exercise can cause muscle soreness — but for good reason
Although aerobic exercises focus on increasing a person’s heart rate, any bodily motion involves the use of muscles. Aerobic exercises can thus lead to muscle soreness, which reflects how your muscles are actually damaged during exercise.
Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid building up in the muscles is in no way associated with muscle soreness. Instead, microscopic muscle fiber damage causes soreness, which can be countered somewhat with post-exercise stretching. As well, ample protein intake after exercise is crucial for muscle rebuilding.
3. Exercise burns calories
When you eat, your body breaks down the carbohydrates, fat, protein, and fiber in your meal into energy, commonly known as calories, that your body uses to maintain and boost all its processes. Any of these calories that go unused for fueling the body’s natural processes are stored as fat, which can gather and cause adverse effects in men around the waistline and women in the buttocks. The bodily processes involved in exercise burn these calories, thereby helping to prevent excess fat buildup.
The body uses calories to sustain increased heart rate, power the movement of muscles, and aid the regeneration of muscles post-workout. Exercise directly affects the body’s energy use both during your workout and afterward.
4. Exercise is good for your mental health
The benefits of exercise extend far beyond physical manifestations. Exercise promotes brain processes and changes including neural growth and the release of inflammation-fighting chemicals. During exercise, the brain also releases endorphins, which have been scientifically proven to reduce painful sensations and increase the body’s ability to resist stress, anxiety, and depression.
Although working out may be stressful in the moment, its long-term effects are well-worth enduring the intensity of a run, weight lifting session, sports, or whatever else might be your favorite way of staying active.