Why Physical Activity is So Good For Us

kayaking physical activity

Most of us already know—in theory—how a physically active lifestyle benefits us at every level. But let’s review it anyway. We can all use a regular reminder to keep us motivated!

Let’s be clear. We’re not talking about training for the Olympics, or being able to run a marathon or swim the English Channel.

We’re talking about being reasonably active—moving your major muscle groups enough to make them work on a regular basis.

For many this means working out 30-60 minutes most days of the week. It can be walking, running, biking, hiking, swimming, kayaking, strength training…doing things to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. It can be making sure you get in 10,000 steps a day.

Your Body will Love You for It

Our bodies are designed to need to move! Every single system in our body is healthier when our body moves and works. This includes our:

  • Circulatory system: From our body’s most important muscle—our heart—to the entire system of veins and arteries that carry blood to every cell and back to the heart.
  • Respiratory system: Our lungs and their ability to move oxygen through the blood.
  • Skeletal system: Healthy bones mean a healthy foundation. Did you know frail bones in the elderly is more a result of inactivity than aging!
  • Nervous system: From the brain on down through our spinal cord and into the nerves.
  • Digestive system: Getting the nutrients out of our food and distributing them, then eliminating waste efficiently and safely.
  • Reproductive system: Yes, even this system benefits from an active lifestyle.
  • Immune system: Our body’s ability to fight off disease.

There are whole lists of common diseases that are plaguing our population that can be reduced or eliminated by getting and staying physically active. Some of these are:

  • Heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Many types of cancers
  • Obesity (itself a major factor in many diseases)
  • Back pain and arthritis
  • Diabetes

Here’s a short article by the Mayo Clinic if you need to hear it from the experts.

Your Mind will Love You for It

Studies are suggesting that regular exercise:

  • Improves memory
  • Clarifies thinking
  • Boosts creativity
  • Increases self-confidence
  • Helps beat depression
  • Can even help recover from and control addiction

I can attest that when I’m overwhelmed by conflicting thoughts or am struggling with the answer to a sticky problem, getting outside for a walk or run almost always helps.

Closely tied to our mind are our emotions…

Your Emotions will Love You for It

Exercise is well-known to provide stress and anxiety relief. It releases all kinds of good chemicals like norepinephrine, dopamine and other endorphins that relax us, make us feel good, and ease tension.

And most of us are able to think more clearly and make better decisions when our emotions are under control!

Your Spiritual Life will Love You for It

Because I believe we’ve been created and designed by God, it’s easy for me to understand how my spiritual life benefits by being healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.

I’ll speak from a Christian perspective since that’s my faith—the Bible has a lot to say about being thankful, rejoicing, gratitude, giving, loving well. All those things are easier to do when we’re in whole-health.

It’s easier to be joyful…to be generous…to be kind when we feel good. It’s easier to connect with God when our mind is clear, when we’re not battling depression and anxiety.

It’s easier to make tough choices—forgiving, letting go of resentment, choosing faith instead of fear—when our emotions are under control, our mind is alert and our body isn’t full of disease or pain.

The Negatives of NOT Moving

There’s more and more evidence coming in that physical inactivity is horrible for us—physically, mentally, emotionally (and therefore spiritually!).

In fact, one exercise scientist calls physical inactivity America’s “biggest public health problem of the 21st Century.” Bigger than smoking. Bigger than obesity.

Why? Because being sedentary gradually negates all the benefits listed above. It’s actually better to be overweight and fit than to be thin and sedentary! Chew on that for awhile. And then get (and keep) moving 🙂

(Sources: Shape.com, Harvard Health Publishing, MedlinePlus.gov, American Psychological Association, Quartz Media…Do an online search for “benefits of physical activity” or “benefits of exercise” and you’ll get page after page of links.)