At present, it seems clearly demonstrated that while sedentary or inactive lifestyle is a huge risk factor for the development of many chronic diseases, among which cardiovascular diseases stand out as one of the leading causes of death in the Western world. Leading a physically active life produces numerous benefits to the health and well-being of individuals.
It is not easy to define the term “health” since each person has a
perception and of course personal experience of it; depending on what each one considers normal, the socioeconomic level, religion, way of life and culture provides the pattern that defines the form to be or to be healthy.
Many definitions refer to the absence of disease as a concept of health, such as that of Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary (1775), which says that “health consists of being robust, unharmed or lacking in discomfort, pain or illness.” According to the WHO (World Health Organization), health can be defined as “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not just only the absence of diseases“.
One of the motivations for carrying out physical exercise is the search for that state of well-being that approaches the individual concept of health as a basic component of the quality of life.
Is it healthy to exercise?
According to studies, it seems that there is a relationship between physical activity and life expectancy, so that physically more active populations tend to live longer than inactive ones. On the other hand, it is a reality that people who perform physical exercise on a regular basis have the subjective feeling of being better than before doing it, both from the physical and mental point of view, that is, they have a better quality of life. It seems evident therefore that the practice of physical exercise has something positive for health.
The human body has been designed to move, and therefore requires regular exercise to stay functional and avoid getting sick or suffer infirmity. Physical activity is all body movement produced by the muscles and that requires an energetic expenditure.
Physical exercise is a type of physical activity that is defined as any programmed, structured and repetitive bodily movement performed to improve or maintain one or more of the components of the physical fitness state. When the level of physical activity does not reach the minimum necessary to maintain a healthy state, we speak of sedentary lifestyle.
During our childhood and adolescence, most of us maintained a level of physical activity more than enough through the game and different sports activities. But the opportunities for physical exercise are reduced as we become adults. In addition, unlike previous generations, there are fewer and fewer people who perform a
ctivities that involve some kind of physical work, either at work or during leisure time.
In any of the countries of the world that we call “developed”, the indicators of physical activity show really discouraging figures. According to different statistics, sedentary lifestyle affects 40 to 60% of the population, and only 1 in 5 individuals reach the minimum of physical activity recommended for health.
What are the benefits of physical activity for health?
In a brief and very accurate statement, Dr. KH Cooper defines physical exercise as “the method to put more years in your life and more life in your years“. Most people can benefit from doing physical activity on a regular basis. It is common for people to think that they get enough exercise at work.
Many think that they are too old to start, others feel that their physical form is already too bad to try to recover it. Obesity, diabetes, or physical disability may be the reasons that discourage the subject to begin physical activity. But in many cases it is simply laziness, or the expectations of fatigue and pain that prevent it from even being attempted.
At present, there seems to be sufficient evidence to prove that those who lead a physically active life can obtain a long list of health benefits:
- It decreases the risk of mortality due to cardiovascular diseases in general and especially mortality from ischemic heart disease to a degree similar to other risk factors such as smoking.
- Prevents and / or delays the development of arterial hypertension, and decreases blood pressure values in hypertensive patients.
- Improves the profile of blood lipids (reduces triglycerides and increases HDL cholesterol).
- It improves the regulation of glycemia and decreases the risk of suffering from non-insulin dependent diabetes.
- Improves digestion and regularity of intestinal rhythm.
- It reduces the risk of suffering from certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer, one of the most frequent and on which there seems to be more evidence.
- Increase the use of body fat and improve weight control.
- Helps maintain and improve muscular strength and endurance, increasing the functional capacity to perform other physical activities of daily life (such as sex).
- Helps maintain the structure and function of the joints. Physical activity of moderate intensity, as recommended for the purpose of obtaining health benefits, does not produce joint damage and on the contrary it may be beneficial for osteoarthritis.
- Physical activity, and especially that in which weight is supported, is essential for the normal development of bone during childhood and to reach and maintain the peak of bone mass in young adults.
- It helps to reconcile and improve the quality of sleep.
- It helps to release tension and improves stress management.
- It helps fight and improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and increases enthusiasm and optimism.
- It helps to establish heart-healthy habits in children and to combat the factors (obesity, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, etc.) that favour the development of cardiovascular diseases in adulthood.
- In older adults, it decreases the risk of falls, helps to delay or prevent chronic diseases and those associated with aging. In this way, it improves their quality of life and increases their capacity to live independently.
- It helps to control and improve the symptoms and prognosis in many chronic diseases (Ischemic heart disease, arterial hypertension, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Obesity, Diabetes, Osteoporosis, etc.)
- It decreases mortality in both young and older adults, being even lower in those who only maintain a moderate level of physical activity than in those who are less active or sedentary.
- Finally, all these benefits will have a final impact on the reduction of health expenditure. This is a strong argument for both public and private administrations to support the promotion of physical activity in all strata of our society.
The human organism as a consequence of regular physical training, presents in its different apparatuses and systems morpho
logical and functional modifications that we call adaptations, which will allow on the one hand to prevent or delay the appearance of certain diseases and on the other hand to improve the capacity to perform a physical effort.
Undoubtedly, regular physical exercise allows us from the psychological point of view to face life with greater optimism and better disposition, while socially is a means of integration in different human groups.
Physical activity is not only healthy on a physical level, but mentally it is also very beneficial because it helps us to release endorphins and feel better about ourselves. Also, if we practice sports in a beautiful environment, that mental benefit greatly increases.
An excellent alternative to achieve this last is to resort to fun multi-adventure sports in nature . Multi-adventure activities such as hiking, kayaking, rafting or mountain biking can put us in touch with nature and increase the benefits that sport activities already have.
Among the possible problems derived from the practice of physical activity, the most frequent is the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. This is easy to avoid if you do not commit excesses and the level of activity increases slowly and progressively until you reach the desired level.
On the other hand, although it is true that intense physical exercise considerably increases the risk of cardiovascular events (acute myocardial infarction or sudden cardiac death), both in previously sedentary individuals and in those who perform physical activity on a regular basis, the overall risk it is still clearly inferior in the latter.
For those who intend to start a program of intense physical activity and have some type of chronic disease (ischemic heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc.) or greater risk of suffering them, and for women over 50 years and men of More than 40 years, it is advisable to pass a previous medical examination ascertaining the health readiness.