To understand the benefits to exercise and fitness, we first need to understand what fitness means. The standards of fitness were initially defined by Aristotle 2500 years ago. He taught that a thing which suits its purpose well is fit. In terms of our muscles, our lungs, our heart, our bones and everything else that makes up this wonderful machine we call our body, if it functions well then it is fit. So in other words, to be fit is to be healthy.
How Exercise Helps
Exercising aids fitness in many ways, each involving one or more of our bodies components. Raising our level of physical activity causes our heart to work harder than it does when resting. This exercises the heart and increases blood flow. This helps to deliver fresh oxygen and remove cellular waste products from the body.
Exercise causes our lungs to draw in more oxygen to meet the bodies increased demand. As we exhale, our lungs also remove carbon dioxide, a waste product produced in the body from certain biochemical reactions.
Balanced, regular exercise aids in raising the bodies HDL levels – High-Density Lipoprotein. HDL is sometimes referred to as ‘good cholesterol’. It collects stored cholesterol from within the body to help regulate blood sugar levels and to convert stored fat into energy. This process also helps with weight maintenance.
There are many more benefits to exercise as well. Some are more obvious such as increased muscle mass, weight loss or body tone. Other benefits are by-products of a long term commitment to fitness, like healthier looking skin, improved self confidence, better balance and more energy. These sounds like good reasons to exercise to me.
Don’t Limit Yourself
While different types of exercise seem emphasize one area over another this isn’t exactly the case, the body is a very complex integrated system. Improving one area has beneficial consequences for the rest. Cardio exercises help the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. Weight training focuses on building muscle tone and strength, pilates can help improve balance and flexibility. Choosing one type of exercise over all others is just choosing to limit your fitness potential. Each type of exercise will improve your performance in the rest. This is why a balanced exercise plan is such a good thing.
Reaping the benefits to exercise today is easy. Just get out there. Start small and work towards big. And, as Aristotle taught, to function well is to be fit.