The Importance of Exercise

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Exercise, we all know what it is, we all know that we should do it, but have you ever thought WHY you should do it? Exercise provides the human body with so much more than just muscle tone or the ability to run a marathon. It is so important to get a bout of daily exercise, whether that be walking or running, a HIIT session or yoga, to target and exercise elements of the human body we don’t see in the mirror.

In particular, during these current Covid19 times, we are more sedentary with nowhere to go, we are doing less strength training without the luxury of our gyms, while often working longer hours, as the office is at home! This, in turn, can reduce our bodies’ systems in a number of ways.

Recently, Principal Physiotherapist, Fiona Pringle spent 2 weeks in isolation at home after returning home from overseas. During this time, Fiona started posting daily workouts targeting the very systems most at risk of declining performance during this time. We’d like to share these with you here:

1. Boost immunity
a) Exercise produces a beautiful ‘J Curve’ effect when exercising. That is we have a small decline in immune system function following an exercise bout, but because the human body is amazing, it super compensates for this small decline to offer us more protection from potential infections.

b) Moderate-intensity exercise training is associated with a reduced incidence, duration and severity of upper respiratory tract (predominantly viral) infections. A number of epidemiological studies suggest that regular physical activity is associated with decreased incidence of and mortality from influenza and pneumonia.

2. Reduce all cause mortality risk (early death)
a) The key to reducing all cause mortality (that is your risk of dying from any illness or
disease) is aerobic exercise. Strength exercises do play a role, but aerobic exercise has a greater effect. This is where our national guidelines come in, 150mins of moderate-intensity exercise a week. That is 150mins where you have got a bit of a puff on! Not casually strolling around the garden, but out there getting a bit hot and sweaty, a bit short of breath and the heart rate up!

3. Flexibility
a) Numerous studies show that we need to move it to keep it. Strengthen to length is the key here, we get better and longer-lasting flexibility changes with, wait for it… strengthening exercises! Particularly when it is done in a slow, controlled manner. While traditional static stretches do help, and often do feel good, the effects are short lived and don’t act on the muscle fascicles like we had once hoped.

4. Reducing Fall Risk
a) Maintaining fitness has a huge, positive impact on reducing falls risks in all populations. Maintaining adequate strength is an important component of this as well as regularly practicing some balance exercises – as simple as standing on one leg at the bench while waiting for the kettle to boil.

5. Respiratory System
a) Deep breathing as what occurs with moderate (puffy) exercise can help to open up the lungs, increase airflow and also assist in removing secretions from the airways.
b) With frequent aerobic exercise, the respiratory system becomes more efficient with gas transfer, allowing greater oxygen transfer and reducing fatigue.

6. Cognitive Function
a) Regular exercise has been shown time and time again to improve cognitive function both in the short and long term. From bursts of increased concentration, better memory recall and reduced risk of dementia in later life, the benefits are clear, aerobic exercise is key to improving and maintaining cognitive function!

7. Mental Health
​a) Exercise is an effective way to reduce symptoms of depression and is more effective than no therapy at all. Whereas for anxiety, high-intensity exercise was more effective than lower intensity exercise bouts.

The Australian Journal for General Practice recently released an article on the importance of maintaining aerobic fitness for immunity, particularly for those with chronic health conditions, during the Covid19 period. To read the full article, click here.

Click here to watch Fiona’s ISO workouts

Need some help preparing your body for exercise? Or helping your body adjust to a different exercise regime? Book a Physiotherapy appointment now!

Do you have a chronic health condition and need help getting started with exercise at home or putting together an exercise program? Book an Exercise Physiology appointment now!

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