When it comes to physical activity for health, any medical provider will tell you it’s important to be active. Exercise offers many benefits that promote health and wellness. But for most of us, we tend to think about physical activity as a way to lose weight and improve our heart. If we’ve packed on a few pounds, we head to the gym or sign up for a spin class. If we find ourselves getting winded going up a flight of stairs, we make a resolution to get back in shape. This is a limited perspective of what physical activity can do when it comes to our wellbeing. The benefits of movement are much broader than this, and recent surveys prove this to be the case.
In a recent survey involving more than 3,000 people, a variety of questions were asked about exercise tendencies. The goal was to determine whether people pursued physical activity for health in general or for specific reasons. As it turns out, most of the participants in the study recognized a wide range of benefits of movement. Certainly, some of these benefits involved a healthier weight or more energy throughout the day. But many also identified many other emotional and mental wellness advantages of physical exercise. Based on this, we need to completely rethink how we approach our daily lives. Specifically, we need to think much more about the benefits of movement and incorporating it into each and every day.
The Survey and the Stats
As noted, researchers polled roughly 3,000 people about their exercise habits and the advantages it provided. Of these individuals, about a third were noted to have some type of longstanding condition. Some had heart problems, others had hypertension, and some even had things like depression. Thus, as part of the survey, the researchers wanted to gather information about the perceived benefits of movement. Thye tallied the results overall, but they also analyzed the data among those with and without chronic problems. This is where some interesting insights were found as it pertained to physical activity and health.
Out of the entire population surveyed, two-thirds reported that physical activity improved their mood. More importantly, a third described that their mood decreased if they didn’t exercise. Because of this, nearly one in every five people described mental health benefits of movement as motivating factors. While they engaged in physical activity for health overall, many had come to appreciate the advantages it provided cognitively. Not only did the benefits of movement include better mobility, but they also involved mood enhancement and improved concentration. This resulted in more than a third exercising five days a week or more overall.
The researchers also examined the survey data among those with chronic illnesses for benefits of movement. In this group, many had been encouraged to participate in physical activity for health. But those that did so had realized similar benefits related to mood and mental alertness as well. Of this group, roughly 38% described a greater sense of wellbeing when they exercised. At the same time, about 45% felt down when they neglected to perform any kind of exercise. About a quarter of those with longstanding illnesses also noticed mental health benefits when they were active. Here again, it was this group of benefits that helped motivate them to be active. In essence, individuals who appreciated the broader benefits of movement in both groups tended to stick to a regular routine.
The Science Behind Movement
British TV personality and physician Dr. Zoe William was involved in the survey, and she had some interesting takes. In her experience, there appear to be specific types of movement that offer targeted advantages. For example, she notes that walking is a great way to stimulate a faster heart rate. Therefore, when we experience a mental block of some type, she recommends taking a little stroll. The walk doesn’t have to be very long to realize the benefits of movement on cognitive creativity. And if done regularly, this simple movement can boost our productivity while also providing a physical activity for health overall.
Different types of activities offer different benefits of movement. If we are feeling stressed, Dr. Williams suggests that swimming may be a preferred activity. Swimming as an exercise requires us to focus mentally, and in turn, this can distract us from stress. Likewise, swimming is a great physical activity for health from a holistic point of view. Dancing is another type of movement that may have specific benefits. Dancing releases endorphins, dopamine, and other neurochemicals that boost our mood. Therefore, if we are sad or anxious, it can help make us happier and more relaxed. These are the types of things many of the people in the survey already appreciated about physical activity. And it’s why many chose to exercise most days out of the week.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
One of the other things that the researchers noted in the survey was the types of physical activity for health selected. Out of all participants, more than half chose walking as their preferred exercise of choice. In contrast, about a fifth engaged in swimming, and another preferred team sports. Social aspects of exercise also varied among the participants. Half of these tended to exercise alone when pursuing the benefits of movement, for specific reasons. Most did so because they enjoyed the opportunity to be alone with their own thoughts while exercising. Others did so to avoid judgment of others or because they were self-conscious. Regardless of the activity selected, however, all enjoyed the benefits of movement when it came to holistic wellness.
The bottom line is that physical activity for health and wellness extend well beyond weight and cardiovascular effects. Mood and mental health also benefit from exercise on a regular basis, and they can serve as motivating factors. No matter what type of exercise or movement you prefer, there are clear advantages to gain from physical activity. The key, however, is to just move! Move often and move regularly! If you do, you’re most likely to enjoy an array of health benefits in the process.
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