Physical activity describes any activity that involves movement and work by different muscle groups in the body. Simple activities like walking, standing, running, lifting weights and doing bench presses all count as physical activity. Note however, that not all physical activities have to do with ‘’formal exercise’’ as we know it in the gym. Simple everyday activity in and around the home count as physical activity. Things like walking, lifting heavy objects around the house, cooking [especially when it involves some tedious pounding], cleaning and washing all count as physical activity undergone by an individual.
Organized physical activity/ exercise is becoming more popular in the present day with the growing popularity of the ‘’fit-fam’’ and increased sensitization on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle which includes risks of cardiovascular disease like a heart attack or stroke and obesity. Therefore, a growing population of Nigerians and humans generally all over the world are beginning to take up physical activity no matter how minor.
There are various types of physical activities based on intensity and based onthe form of physical activity;
Activities Based on intensity
- Light intensity activities are common everyday activities you can carry out that doesn’t necessarily put pressure on the cardiopulmonary system. That is, your heart and lungs are working at nearly the same rate they would have been working if you were sitting. These activities include a short walk, or a washing or cleaning around the house.
- Moderate intensity activities are a bit more tedious than the light intensity activities. They make your cardiopulmonary system work harder. You can feel your heart rate increase and your respiratory rate also increases. These activities include jogging, an uphill walk at a fast pace and others. These activities can vary for different individuals. For example, an athlete or a long distance runner would see a short sprint as a moderate intensity activity but someone who is less active would probably rate it as high intensity.
- High intensity activities or vigorous activities make your cardiopulmonary system work way harder. It is so intense that once in a while one might be forced to stop and catch his/her breath. Activities like swimming,soccer, basketball, water aerobics, bicycling, aerobic dancing, amongst others.
Activities Based on form
- Aerobic exercises – this involves the movement of large muscle groups and basically a rapid increase in heart rate and respiratory rate to supplement for increased oxygen utilization in these areas. These kinds of activities are great if one is looking to lose an amount of weight or improve general body fitness. Examples of these exercises include running, swimming, cycling, doing jumping jacks or walking briskly.
- Muscle strengthening or endurance exercises – these can also be weight lifting activities or long distance jogs. Their aim is not directly to increase oxygen utilization in the body but to strengthen muscles and increase their mass by lifting weight. Constant and increased weight lifting causes target muscles to hypertrophy and become stronger and firmer. This form of activity is advisable if you are looking to build your body or specific target muscles of to put on healthy weight all over your body. Examples of these activities include; push ups, pull-ups, lunges, bench presses, squats and long distance jogs.
- Bone strengthening activities – are quiet similar to muscle strengthening but in this case the target is to work on. It includes weight lifting exercises and activities targeting joint flexibility.
- Stretching / flexibility exercises – these have to do with stretches to reduce muscle numbness and improve flexibility as one gets older or puts on weight. Minor stretches first thing in the morning and last thing at night can suffice for flexibility needs.
10 HEALTH BENEFITS OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND DAILY EXERCISE
- It can make you feel happy
Studies have shown that regular exercise and physical activity noticeable improves an individual’s mood. It helps reduce feelings of stress and depression. Exercise brings about a surge of serotonin [ a hormone also secreted to trigger the satisfaction we feel when we eat] and noradrenaline to boost brain activity and generally improve a person’s mood. Exercise no matter the intensity has been known to greatly improve mood and when it is consistent it can be a great way to fight off depression in both men and women. This is one of the social benefits of physical activity.
- Regular physical activity increases energy levels
When the body undertakes physical activities regularly it improves the body’s ability to convert and utilize glucose and fatty acids as fuels for the production of energy. Therefore, a daily engagement in physical activity increases an individual’s energy levels because the body is now fully able to utilize glucose absorbed from food.
- It can help relaxation and sleep quality.
Physical activity helps the body get rid of physiological stressors and thus helps an individual relax and sleep better.
- It can promote a better sex life.
It has been found especially in older women that an increase in daily physical activity improves libido and the ability to gain sexual satisfaction because exercise increases the release of feel good hormones and increases exercise tolerance and flexibility.
- It brings about weight loss
Exercise and physical activity generally helps the body burn fat and there by bringing about the healthy kind of weight loss that doesn’t necessarily have to do with starvation. It ensures that the individual comes out slimmer, more active and generally healthier than they were before the activities. Studies have also shown that healthy weight loss greatly improves self-confidence and makes people more open to social interaction.
- Regular physical activity is good for your muscles and bones
When a person begins to take up regular physical activity it increases muscle mass. When a muscle does work consistently over a period of time it begins to increase in size. This is called muscle hypertrophy which is brought about by increased number of muscle fibres in each muscle bundle. On the contrary when a muscle does not undergo regular activity it begins to undergo hypotrophy. Hypotrophy is when a muscle reduces in mass due to lack of physical activity. This can also happen side by side with accumulation of fat in the body system therefore the individual might appear fatter while losing muscle mass.
For bone, when a particular body part and its corresponding osteology are undergoing regular physical activity, it improves calcium resorption in the bones. There is also an increase in vitamin D absorption from the diet, hence an all-round increase in bone density. This is so effective that regular physical activity is recommended for individuals over the age of 50 for the prevention and management of osteoporosis especially in menopausal and post-menopausal women.
- Regular physical activity reduces your risk of chronic diseases
Chronic diseases are diseases that persist beyond three months. They are usually common in the elderly or the overweight. These diseases include things like diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease amongst others. The incidence of these diseases can be reduced or completely prevented when the right amount of physical activity is incorporated into day to day life. For instance, daily physical activity can help prevent high blood pressure or significantly lower high blood pressure in already ill patients by increasing the individual’s exercise tolerance and thus his general health. It is also important to note that exercise helps the body get rid of antioxidants and other by products of metabolism in sweat. Physical activity helps burn fat thereby helping the body get rid of some metabolic waste stored in fat cells that might cause diseases or clog blood vessels.
- It can help skin health
Exercise and physical activity is known to help reduce waste products of metabolism. Now, we all know that the main cause of aging are free oxidative radicals on the skin. Some skin conditions are also caused by bacteria on the skin and oil clogging up pores. When one exercises, general circulation all over the body increases and this includes circulation to the skin. The pores open up for a while allowing your skin to really breathe. There is increased blood supply and thus an increase in supply of nourishment to the skin. When you sweat you clear all the waste products off the skin leaving you with a beautiful, youthful glow.
- It can help reduce pain.
Hormones like serotonin and neurotransmitters like endorphins are the body’s own natural analgesics and they help the body relieve itself of excruciating pain. These hormones are released more when a person undertakes physical activity and thus helps the reduce pain. For pain associated with joint or muscular inflammation, mild exercise of the affected joint helps to relieve inflammation in the affected area and thus relieve the pain in that area.
MENTAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS
- It can help with brain health and memory.
This comes with an increase in blood supply to the brain. Hence, there is increased oxygen and glucose supply to the brain thus improving all round brain health. Physical activity also brings about and increase in secretion of ‘’feel good’’ hormones for the brain like serotonin and endorphins, these also help improve brain health.