LET’S GET PHYSICAL: WHY WE NEED TO MOVE OUR BODIES

Whether you’ve decided to skip your morning walk for the 5th day in a row or considered cancelling the gym membership that’s been lying idle for weeks…trust me, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. In this fast-paced world, it’s difficult to set aside time for exercise… and feeling guilty about it isn’t going to fix anything!

For parents, there’s the added stress of trying to get your children to be active. Too often as parents we give in to our children’s high-pitched pleas for “ten more minutes!!” on the PlayStation instead of playing a game of backyard cricket outside.

Any parent knows how frustrating it is to argue with a whining child who’s adamant on getting what they want. We’re all guilty of wanting a bit of peace and quiet…even if it’s at the expense of a child’s health. It’s only one day, right? They’ll go outside tomorrow…or that’s what we keep telling ourselves!

While I’m not here to tell you off, I can at least tell why you need to be exercising and more importantly, why your children should be. Healthy kids come from seeing healthy parents, and that means you! So congratulations on making the first step and doing your research  – you’re on the right track, and I’m happy to say, you’re not alone. Here’s just some scientific facts to support your decisions to get more physically active…

  • Physical activity supports a healthy weight and reduces risk of overweight or obesity later in life. We need to eat in order to sustain ourselves. But if the calories we eat aren’t burned off, we store it away as fat. A way to combat this is by increasing our energy output1, or in simpler terms, by moving our body. Think of this concept as a scale: energy input (eating food) should match energy output (exercise). We can’t let the scale tip to one side!
  • Good heart health. Engaging in regular physical activity has proven to improve the function of our heart. The heart is a muscle and therefore needs to be exercised in order to work properly. By pumping more, the heart becomes stronger and more blood reaches our body2. Since oxygen is carried in our blood, this means our body is also receiving more oxygen2.
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. As mentioned before with the heart, exercise allows our arteries to “open up” more and deliver blood to the body more easily3. This decreases our risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, angina and stroke. Physical activity has also been shown to decrease blood sugar levels that are the most common cause of diabetes4.
  • Strong bones and muscles. As mentioned before, muscles become bigger and stronger the more we exercise them. The same goes for our bones. Studies have shown that bone density is increased and maintained when one performs regular physical activity5 (Pitukcheewanont et al., 2010). Bones are the very foundation of our body – so it is crucial that we keep them in check.
  • Improved mental health. When your body is moving, it releases endorphins and serotonin (or “happy hormones”). This improves your mood, and in turn, mental health6. Exercise is also a great way to improve sleeping patterns, which is vital for brain function7.

So with all that being said, does that morning walk tomorrow sound a little more enticing?

References:

  1. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (2003). Food energy – methods of analysis and conversion factors. FAO FOOD AND NUTRITION PAPER. [online] Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Available at: http://www.fao.org/uploads/media/FAO_2003_Food_Energy_02.pdf [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018].
  2. National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. (2018). Physical Activity and Your Heart | National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). [online] Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/physical-activity-and-your-heart [Accessed 1 Aug. 2018].
  3. Sarelius, I. and Pohl, U. (2010). Control of muscle blood flow during exercise: local factors and integrative mechanisms. Acta Physiologica, 199(4), pp.349-365.
  4. Colberg, S., Sigal, R., Fernhall, B., Regensteiner, J., Blissmer, B., Rubin, R., Chasan-Taber, L., Albright, A. and Braun, B. (2010). Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes: The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement. Diabetes Care, 33(12), pp.e147-e167.

Article author: Tiya Kazi, Nutritionist, Bachelor of Health Sciences, U.Q – Published March 2019