The first results of an exercise program usually do not appear in the reflection of a mirror, but instead are hidden away from sight, deep within the body. Let’s take a moment to explore some of these benefits that are not obvious to the eye but are the hidden jewels of a healthy lifestyle.
There is no special order or priority in which the internal results of exercise occur, so for the sake of conversation, I will start with what is first felt and talked about, which is the good feeling we experience after a workout. The body (pituitary gland) is stimulated to release endorphins that are a naturally occurring opioid. These are released within the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral tissue during exercise. That’s right, it’s been called: “the runners high, the swimmer’s smile, and the lifters laugh.” These all reflect this euphoric experience during and after a training session. It is a powerful hormonal response to induced stress during exercise or other stressful stimuli to the body. This euphoric feeling is also related to reducing stress and improving self-esteem. Not a bad reward for exercising.
Increases HDL and lowers LDL
According to a study conducted by Duck University, exercise, along with diet, has been proven to reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and increase HDL (high-density lipoprotein). One reason exercise works to reduce LDL is it helps reduce weight, which is attributed to increased LDL. Exercise stimulates enzymes that help move LDL through the blood and to the liver where it is converted to bile and used in digestion or excreted. So the more exercise, the more the body uses and reduces LDL levels. Now that should motivate you to kick in that exercise regiment. But, how much exercise should you do? The American Heart Association recommends to start out with 30 minutes a day and eventually work up to 60 minutes a day. Can’t fit one hour at a time into your busy schedule? Try breaking it into 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. Sometimes you just have to be creative, but hey, the benefits are worth it.
Bone density is a product of many factors. Nutrition and hormone levels in both men and females contribute to the remodeling of bone in the body. The physiological process is complex and as exciting as it might be, the short of it is resistance training can help in creating bone density. Resistance training is the key words here. Swimming and biking are great for cardiovascular health and developing muscle strength, but these exercises are not weight bearing to the skeletal system, so they will not create the resistance that the bone requires to stimulate remodeling to handle the workloads presented. Exercises that do are walking, running, weight lifting, or any form of resistance training.
Exercise programs improve the strength of muscles and tendons that surround and support the joints. As you lose weight and gain strength, there will be less stress on the joints because you are lighter and stronger. Another bonus is that increased blood flow through the circulatory system helps reduce arthritis.
A Healthy Heart
Exercise also increases the health of your heart. Resistance training and aerobic conditioning both stimulate the heart to become stronger and supply blood to the working muscles. Being able to increase the strength of the heart muscle will make your heart more efficient which lowers your resting heart rate, and could help with high blood pressure issues.
So when you first start an exercise program, forget the mirror and the scale, take a deep breath in, and know that the quality of your life is improving from the inside out.