I am a student of the IB who has studied chemistry and biology, and I am personally aiming to improve my fitness by doing daily exercise.
Why You Should Be Active
Ever wanted to create a healthy lifestyle habit? In this article, I will go over the benefits of daily exercise, including physical and mental benefits, as well as cover some other key factors in order to remain healthy (such as a balanced diet). I hope that I am able to motivate and help you to start a new habit.
Why Is This Significant?
Currently, in America, 32.2% of men and 35.5% of women are obese. One major reason is due to a lack of exercise.
Sections That Will Be Covered
- What goes on whilst you exercise
- How exercise is different for each person
- The benefits of daily exercise (mental and physical)
- How to start exercising healthily
- Problems with a lack of exercise
- How to have a healthy diet
What Goes on Whilst You Exercise
During exercise, a lot is happening in your body, which remains the same whether you are doing weight lifting or cardiovascular endurance training. There is always muscle movement and respiration occurring, and occasionally the release of glucagon.
Whilst you move, muscles across your body are working in antagonistic pairs to contract and relax, such as the biceps and triceps. The diagram below shows how antagonistic pairs work.
So these contractions and relaxations of muscles are what allow you to move. In order for these muscles to move, a series of metabolic reactions occur in your cells. These metabolic reactions constantly happen, and without them, we wouldn't be able to live. The main metabolic reaction that is occurring is respiration.
Respiration is the process your body uses to create energy.
What your body uses:
- Glucose comes from the food you eat and is broken down from carbohydrates, sugars and fats.
- Oxygen comes from the air you breathe in during inhalation.
What it produces:
- Carbon dioxide and water are breathed out during exhalation.
- ATP is adenosine triphosphate
Adenosine triphosphate or ATP is the key product of this chemical reaction. This is because during a process called hydrolysis ( which is the breaking of bonds within a molecule) a large amount of energy is produced. This energy is then transferred into a different form of energy.
For exercise, it is transferred as kinetic energy or movement energy. This essentially provides your muscles with the energy to move.
Release of Glucagon
During an especially long workout, your blood sugar levels may lower. The body likes to keep the overall condition of your body at a constant (a process called Homeostasis), so it wants to increase your blood sugar levels to normal.
In order to do so, the pancreas releases a hormone into the bloodstream, called glucagon. The hormone causes stored glycogen (the stored form of glucose) in the muscles and fat, to be converted back to glucose and to be released into the bloodstream. This allows the body to keep up with the workout session.
Intensive Workout Sessions and the Effects
An intensive workout session can lead to sore muscles. If the muscles are sore straight after the session, or even during it, then it is acute muscle soreness, which is due to a build-up of chemicals (such as hydrogen ions or lactic acid). Within a relatively short period of time, the pain goes away as your body gets rid of these chemicals.
Another form of pain after exercise is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (or DOMS). This normally can be felt a few hours later and can last for a couple of days. This is where the exercise has caused tears or microfractures in the muscles. Over the next couple of days, your body repairs the muscles using amino acids, and ultimately makes them stronger.
These can be a good sign that the workout has been challenging, but be sure not to overdo it! Otherwise, you could seriously injure yourself. Whilst experiencing either in the next days, light exercise can help to increase the blood flow, which can help remove the buildup of waste products.
Basically, your body creates energy to move your muscles and releases a hormone to ensure your sugar levels in the blood remain constant.
How Exercise Is Different for Each Person
Another factor you need to be aware of when starting a fitness plan (especially with others) is that the effects are different for every person. This is mainly due to genetics, but don't blame your parents! It's not their fault!
This can cause you to either be responsive to certain exercises or not. The only way to find out if you are not as responsive to one exercise is to test it. Ideally, you should aim to include a combination of exercises either way; (legs and arms, cardio and weights) as different exercises improve and strengthen different muscles in the body.
Another cause, which is also due to genetics, may be how your body metabolises things. This links back to the (metabolic) chemical reaction that occurs to give you energy. Some people have a slower metabolism, which causes the person to burn fewer calories, as your body has evolved to store energy better. Trust me, it is not ideal for losing weight; however, if there is a food shortage, then we will survive the longest.
The Benefits of Daily Exercise (Mental and Physical)
Exercise has multiple benefits for your body, your mood and your brain. There are 2 main categories: physical and mental benefits.
Below is a diagram that outlines the benefits of the two categories.
Apart from some visible benefits, such as the growth of muscles and the decrease in body fat, there are a lot more hidden benefits that happen internally.
It can improve your general health by strengthening your muscles, joints and bones, and by lowering both your cholesterol level and blood pressure. As your muscles develop, your general sense of balance will improve, which can lower your probability of falling.
It can also help increase your resistance to certain diseases (as it boosts your immune system), including heart attacks, type II diabetes, osteoporosis and some forms of cancer.
The mental effects are very important for your mental health. Exercise can improve your productivity and happiness, encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity, and has been proven to be a great form of stress relief.
It can help you become more mindful, by blocking negative thoughts and distracting you from daily worries, as well as providing social contact (especially if you go to the gyms with friends).
The production and release of hormones also differ after exercise, as the efficiency of the production of serotonin increases, endorphin production increases, and the amount of stress hormones decreases.
The functions of the hormones above are:
- Serotonin helps to make you happy (and a lack of it can lead to depression)
- Endorphins are natural painkillers and great stress fighters
Problems With a Lack of Exercise
A lack of exercise can lead to a series of disadvantages such as limited mobility and increased risk of certain medical conditions. The medical conditions that can be linked to inactivity or a lack of exercise include:
|Medical Condition / Disease||Description|
Coronary Heart Disease
When a blood clot forms and gets stuck in one the capillaries on the heart. This can lead to a lack of oxygen provided to the heart (which can cause a heart attack if it is sever enough). With a lack of exercise, it is more likely to occur, as the insoluble/saturated fat can start to line the wall of the blood vessels.
Type II Diabetes
When the body cannot produce enough insulin to reduce the sugar levels in the blood. Exercise helps to improve the sensitivity of the sugar levells in the blood, which can help to produce insulin earlier on.
Breast & Colon Cancer
When cellular division occurs at an uncontrollable rate, and causes tumors. Cancer is when these rogue cells spread around the body. For women, exercise decreases the high amounts of estrogen in the blood (which have been linked to causing breast cancer), and for colon cancer, exercise causes changes in digestive acids.
When obesity and abnormal blood cholesterol levels occur, and can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. This is as a large amount of fat is deposited along the walls of the blood vessels, constricting the amount of blood that can flow through.
When there is a low amount of endorphins present in the body. Exercise can increase the production of this hormone.
When there is a high level of stress hormones in the body, and can lead to nervousness, fear and anxiety attacks. During exercise, the production of endorphins is increased, and the production of stress hormones are decreased.
When there is a poor blood flow to the brain. Exercise can decrease the probability of getting one, by removing the fat deposits along the walls of the blood vessels.
High Blood Pressure
Can cause medical conditions, such as heart diseases or a stroke. Exercising has been proven to reduce your blood pressure, and is recommended by many doctors.
How to Start Exercising Healthily
When starting a new exercise routine or habit, it is important that you take it slowly. Don't just run to the nearest gym and try to lift the largest weight—that will only injure yourself, and you will end up going back to square one after recovery.
Take It Slow
I suggest that you start off with something that's light intensity. For weight lifting, start off with a lightweight that you can comfortably do 20 repetitions (reps) with. For cardiovascular training, start off with low intensity. For endurance training, start off with a short period of time. Once you are comfortable with the intensity (probably after a week or two at least), you can slowly increase the intensity or time.
It is important to try and make it a habit and get into the rhythm. To motivate yourself (if it is safe) watch a video or listen to music. If it is getting tedious or boring, try doing a different exercise routine, trying a new sport, or using a new piece of equipment.
Just make sure that every time you start something new, you start slowly, and progress slowly.
How to Have a Healthy Diet
In order to aid your exercise, it is important to have a healthy, balanced diet. A balanced diet should follow that of the food pyramid:
When you do exercise, there are two components that will become especially important: carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are needed for energy, as that is where the glucose comes from, whilst protein is needed for repairing the muscles and for cellular growth.
I heard about a belief that pastries and fats are healthier than carbohydrates, but in reality—they are not. Carbohydrates are better, as pastries tend to have more sugar and saturated fats, which in large quantities could lead to the deposit of fat in the blood vessels. So carbohydrates are better than pastries.
Spend Time to Care for Your Body
Try to cook meals at home as well, as not only will it save money, it will also be healthier as you will use less fat and salt, and ensure you get all of the nutrients you need.
Every day, you should make sure that you eat enough fruits/vegetables as well, and make sure that you consume enough vitamins and minerals. I suggest taking vitamin supplements to ensure you have enough; however, you can try to cook meals that contain them as well.
A Slow Change
Exercise helps to improve your health and resilience to certain medical conditions, as well as improve your mental health and general happiness. Make sure to take it easy, slowly get into a rhythm and slowly increase the intensity to make sure you do not injure yourself. Help your body by having a healthy diet (to aid all of your work).
Trust me when I say, it is not easy to start an exercise routine and make it a habit, and you may not see the progress for a long time. I have now been doing the same exercise routine for almost three years now, and I have found it really beneficial, and am really happy with the results. Persistence and patience are the keys!
For researching this topic, I used a combination of my own knowledge and experiences, as well as some professional sources. I mainly consulted websites that include medical opinions, or studies; however, I also consulted my biology textbooks (which are used for the IB program).
Allott, Andrew, and David Mindorff. Oxford IB Diploma Program. 2014 ed., Oxford, Oxford UP, 2014.
Donaher, Ashlee. "What Is ATP and What Does It Do?" LUMINUTRA - Microbiology Monitoring, 19 Oct. 2016, www.luminultra.com/what-is-atp-and-what-does-it-do/.
"Lack of exercise as 'deadly' as smoking." NHS, 18 July 2012, www.nhs.uk/news/lifestyle-and-exercise/lack-of-exercise-as-deadly-as-smoking/.
Mercola, Dr. "This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Exercise." Fitness Peak, 20 Sept. 2013, fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/09/20/exercise-health-benefits.aspx.
"Physical activity - it's important." Better Health Channel - Victoria State Government, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/physical-activity-its-important.
Pickering, Ron. Complete Biology for Cambridge IGCSE. 2nd ed., Oxford, Oxford UP, 2010.
Reynolds, Gretchen. "Exploring Why Some People Get Fitter Than Others." The New York Times, 29 Apr. 2015, well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/29/why-some-people-get-fitter-than-others/.
"Risks of Physical Inactivity." Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/cardiovascular_diseases/risks_of_physical_inactivity_85,P00218.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Monique K-G
Monique K-G (author) from Switzerland on September 16, 2018:
Thanks! I'm glad that you like it :)
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on September 11, 2018:
Wow, that's a LOT of information! Thank you!