What are the benefits of exercise, and what changes can occur in the body with long-term physical activity


The Importance of Exercise

The human body’s joints and muscles are originally meant for movement. Without sufficient exercise, joint mobility decreases, making them prone to degeneration. Additionally, regular exercise provides muscles with more opportunities to function effectively. Moreover, exercise accelerates blood circulation, indirectly benefiting every organ in the body. Historically recognized, exercise speeds up blood circulation, benefiting organs that typically receive less blood flow. The greatest beneficiaries are undoubtedly the heart and lungs. The more we exercise, the better our cardiovascular function becomes. Since the heart requires continuous activity to strengthen, a lack of regular activity can compromise its function, leading to an increased risk of heart-related diseases such as coronary heart disease and arteriosclerosis.

Understanding the importance of exercise enables us to incorporate it into our daily lives. Engaging in various exercises helps significantly improve our physical fitness, effectively reducing the susceptibility to influenza viruses. Moreover, it’s crucial to choose exercises suitable for our individual needs.

Benefits of Exercise

The heart serves as the center of the circulatory system. Data indicates that the hearts of regular exercisers are larger than those of non-exercisers. During rest, the heart rate of exercisers is lower compared to non-exercisers, while the stroke volume is higher. Non-exercisers have a resting blood output of about 5000 milliliters per minute, which increases to about 20000 milliliters during vigorous exercise. In contrast, exercisers can reach a blood output of 35000 milliliters per minute during intense exercise. Adolescence is an ideal period for sports training effects. If physical exercise is strengthened during adolescence, its benefits will extend throughout life.

The benefits of running primarily include alleviating fatigue. While seemingly counterintuitive, moderate running indeed boosts spirits and brings joy, thus combating fatigue. Running stimulates the central nervous system through muscle movement, regulating vascular constriction.

Running also helps in mood regulation. During running, muscles produce endorphins, also known as “happy hormones,” which elevate mood and may even lower blood pressure. The stimulation of muscles and motor nerves during running aids in adjusting central nervous system function, promoting relaxation and emotional relief.

Furthermore, running enhances overall physical function. Consistent moderate running strengthens heart, lung, muscle, and joint functions. Particularly beneficial for individuals with weaker hearts, running can strengthen and fortify the heart. Following a sustained and intense run, the heart works approximately four times harder than usual, and lung ventilation increases by about ten times. Thus, consistent moderate running leads to a larger and healthier heart. Moreover, running contributes to cancer prevention by effectively utilizing fatty acids in the body, preventing fat accumulation, and facilitating weight loss. Additionally, running induces significant sweating, eliminating harmful waste products like lead, nickel, beryllium, and strontium from the body, which aids in cancer prevention. Furthermore, individuals who adhere to running exercises have stronger white blood cells, enhancing their ability to resist cancer cells.

What to Drink After Exercise

We are all aware that our bodies become significantly dehydrated after exercise. Therefore, it is advisable to drink beverages after exercising. Typically, water is the preferred choice. However, is drinking water really the best option after exercise?

While alcohol is commonly believed to be detrimental to health, a group of scientists has proposed a completely different idea — drinking beer after exercise may be more effective at quenching thirst and rehydrating than drinking plain water!

Manuel Garson, a professor at the University of Granada Medical School in Spain, conducted several months of research on 25 students. The students were required to cycle in a sweltering environment at 40 degrees Celsius until exhaustion. At this point, researchers immediately measured their body’s water content, attention, and exercise capacity.

Half of the students were then given two glasses of 0.284 liters of Spanish cellar beer, while the other half were only allowed to drink water. Both groups were then allowed to drink as much water as they wished.

Professor Garson pointed out that students who drank some beer before drinking water seemed to have a slightly stronger rehydration effect compared to those who had been drinking only water all along. He firmly believes that the carbon dioxide in beer helps people overcome thirst more quickly. Moreover, carbohydrates in beer can replenish energy lost during exercise, while sugar, salt, and foam may help the body absorb fluids more quickly.

Based on this study, scientists suggest that every athlete should drink a moderate amount of beer with their three meals a day, with men consuming 500 milliliters per day and women consuming 250 milliliters per day. Generally, a person loses about 1 liter of fluid per hour of sweating.

Dr. James Bates, an expert at the University of Bath in the UK specializing in post-exercise rehydration research, stated, “People have always regarded beer as a diuretic, but if you are already dehydrated, then drinking a small amount of beer can also be a good way to rehydrate.” However, he also added that the best way to rehydrate after exercise is still to drink sports drinks containing sugar, water, and salt.

Exercise and Smoking

Smoking among athletes is quite common, and media campaigns seem ineffective in dissuading them. There may be two possible reasons:

(1) Athletes believe that their level of physical activity can counteract the minor harm caused by smoking.

(2) They think that certain components in cigarettes have stimulating effects, which may enhance their performance.

But is this really the truth or just an illusion?

Effects of Smoking on You (Reiterated)

When a cigarette is lit, the smoke produced contains over four thousand seven hundred chemical substances, among which two harmful substances are particularly significant:

(1) Nicotine: The primary psychoactive substance in cigarettes, nicotine has a dual effect on the human body. In small doses, it stimulates the nervous system, but in excess, it has an inhibitory effect. Nicotine is addictive, causing psychological and physiological dependence. Epidemiological studies have shown that nicotine can lead to the production of superoxide anions and leukotrienes in the body, damaging the immune system. Additionally, nicotine accelerates platelet aggregation and inhibits the activation of lytic factors, along with coronary artery constriction, increasing the risk of thrombosis and heart attacks.

(2) Carbon Monoxide: A component of cigarette smoke, it binds to hemoglobin 200 times more strongly than oxygen. Once in the body, carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin, reducing the proportion of oxygenated hemoglobin and causing hypoxia. While the normal blood carbon monoxide content in healthy individuals is below 1%, smokers can reach up to 15%. Over time, the reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of blood due to carbon monoxide can lead to abnormal physiological adjustments and pathological changes.

Impact of Smoking on Exercise Performance

Mc.Murray conducted a study in 1985, comparing two groups, one comprising smokers and the other non-smokers, to measure their maximal oxygen consumption (the optimal indicator of cardiovascular endurance). The results showed that the maximal oxygen consumption of the smoking group was significantly lower than that of the non-smoking group. In the same study, Mc.Murray also evaluated their exercise duration at the same intensity and found that the smoking group had shorter exercise durations compared to the non-smoking group.

Long-term smoking leads to decreased cardiovascular endurance and physical fitness. Moreover, Bolinder found in 1997 that smokers had higher resting heart rates, as well as higher heart rates and systolic blood pressure during exercise compared to non-smokers. This constant strain on the heart of smokers can lead to significant cardiovascular burdens over time.

Overall, the reduced cardiovascular endurance caused by smoking is likely due to the higher concentration of carbon monoxide hemoglobin in smokers’ bodies compared to non-smokers. Additionally, the long-term damage to the cardiovascular and immune systems caused by nicotine may be the primary factors contributing to the decrease in maximal oxygen consumption and exercise duration. While nicotine may stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, leading to potential short-term benefits in anaerobic exercise, the risks posed by nicotine-induced cardiovascular harm, including the potential for cancer, far outweigh any performance benefits. Sacrificing health for performance is not justifiable.

How to Exercise After a Long Break

The most effective way to lose weight is to improve dietary habits by reducing calorie intake and increasing calorie expenditure through exercise. Other benefits of exercise include reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer.

Dr. Cheng Guangzhuan, Director of Sports Medicine and Sports Science at the Singapore Sports Council, advises that if you are overweight and have not exercised for some time, you should undergo a physical examination first. If everything is fine, gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercise.

Dr. Cheng recommends engaging in low-impact exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming, etc., to reduce the risk of injury.

When starting to exercise, begin with comfortable strides. For example, you can start walking at a speed of 5 kilometers per hour for 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing the duration by 10% until you can walk continuously for half an hour.

Then, you can increase the pace and speed of walking. You should breathe faster during exercise but not pant; after about 5 minutes of brisk walking, you should start sweating.

Once you reach your ideal exercise speed, increase the duration by 10% each time. To effectively lose weight, you should exercise 3-5 days a week for at least an hour each time, along with good dietary habits.

Dr. Cheng suggests aiming to lose 0.5 to 1 kilogram per week. Based on your body mass index (BMI), your ideal weight is 66.5 kilograms. Therefore, it will take six months to a year to shed the excess weight.

You may think this time frame is long, but remember, most overweight individuals gain weight slowly over several years!

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