Why Do We Need Exercise?

Laura Williams, M.S.Ed.
Why do we need exercise?

If you've ever asked yourself or someone else, "Why do we need exercise?" it's time to make sure you really understand the importance. The benefits of exercise reach well-beyond weight management and weight loss. Exercise can improve your health, fight disease and help you hone life skills like persistence, confidence and motivation.

So Why Do We Need Exercise?

Your body was built to move. It was designed to walk, run, skip, dance, push and pull. Until the last century, people had to engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity simply to perform daily tasks, but as technology has increased, the need for everyday movement has decreased significantly. People now drive cars, work while sitting at a desk and recreate while sitting still watching movies and playing video games. Exercise functions to fill the gap between our decreased daily physical activity and our body's natural need to move in order to remain fit and healthy.

Why Our Muscles Need Exercise

Our muscles connect to our bones via tendons and ligaments, and they function as levers and supports for our bones. When you use your muscles regularly, you stimulate the maintenance and growth of muscle tissue, enabling you to continue to use your body the way it was intended to be used. Individuals who don't exercise regularly risk muscle atrophy that can lead to weakness, poor posture and declines in daily functional health. The phrase, "use it or lose it" truly applies to your muscles.

In addition to the maintaining the basic functional health of your muscles, you want to maintain your muscle mass in order to keep your metabolism revving. Muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat mass, meaning that it burns more calories throughout the day, even as you sleep. If you fail to exercise regularly and you gradually lose muscle mass, your metabolism will slow down as well, which may lead to weight gain. The more muscle mass you maintain, the easier it will be for you to maintain your weight.

Why Our Bones Need Exercise

Maintaining strong bones as you age can help prevent osteoporosis, a degenerative disease that occurs when your bones lose mass and begin to thin. Individuals with osteoporosis are at greater risk for falls, fractures and long-term disability. You may know that calcium and vitamin D play a major part in developing strong bones, but exercise plays a key role as well. Individuals who regularly participate in weight-bearing exercise experience greater stimulation of bone cell production, ensuring that bone mass increases or remains steady with age. Weight bearing exercise includes:

  • Strength training
  • Walking, jogging or playing sports
  • Dancing
  • Gymnastics
  • Any other exercise that involves consistent "pounding"

Why Our Minds Need Exercise

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates increases in brain mass, particularly in the hippocampus - an area of the brain critically important in memory and reasoning. Maintaining brain mass as you age can help prevent or slow down cognitive deficits and dementia.

Studies also show that children and adults who participate in exercise and sports have better mental and emotional health than individuals who don't exercise regularly. Exercise releases endorphins that stave off depression and anxiety, and regular exercise can even improve the symptoms of depression.

Why Our Heart and Lungs Need Exercise

When you perform cardiovascular exercise, your heart and lungs must work harder to provide your muscles with the oxygen they need to perform movement. As you breath harder to take in more oxygen, your heart has to pump faster to deliver the oxygen to your cells. As this happens, your veins dilate to handle the increased flow of blood. All-in-all this process helps keep your veins and arteries flexible and free of plaque build-up or clots.

Also, cardiovascular exercise can lead to an increase in lung capacity, enabling you to increase your fitness level and do more work with less effort. All-in-all cardiovascular exercise improves your fitness level while preventing heart disease and stroke.

Spreading the News

Now that you understand the importance of exercise, pass your knowledge along. The next time you hear someone as, "Why do we need exercise?" you'll know exactly what to tell them.

Why Do We Need Exercise?