More than Just a Calorie Burn: Exercising to Bolster Your Health and Better Your Life

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Lauren Lisko

Do you want to be healthy, happy, and live a longer life? The way to do this is simple—make sure you move your body every day. Exercising challenges our bodies and minds, and there is no denying how versatile and valuable exercise is to our health and our lives.

There are countless ways to approach exercise. Depending on the performance goal of the exerciser or the specific variation of exercise pursued, a wide variety of health and performance benefits can be yielded.

Examples of benefits to the physical performance that comes with exercise can include endurance for a swimmer or runner; power production for a gymnast, sprinter, or Olympic lifter; agility and coordination for a soccer or basketball player; and strength development for a powerlifter. These types of performance benefits require more structured and frequent training to develop and can serve to give the exerciser the competitive edge over other athletes in the same sport.

On a much broader scale, there are also countless health benefits that can be acquired from exercise in an everyday context—these benefits overlap across the entire spectrum of fitness from individuals who exercise regularly for general health and weight management all the way to professional athletes. These benefits include improvements to our body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol levels, blood glucose, hormonal health and mood, bone mineral density, metabolism, immune function, and more. With a sedentary lifestyle that is lacking or devoid of regular exercise, the risk for chronic illness increases greatly. Types of chronic illnesses that have been linked to a lack of regular physical activity include obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, arthritis, osteoporosis, various types of cancer, and even dementia.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of exercise to our health is the way in which it translates to a better quality of life and increased independence. Exercise that is regarded as “functional fitness,” in particular, will elicit many of the health benefits linked to the prevention of chronic disease, while simultaneously improving our quality of life. Functional fitness is defined as any exercise that uses your own body as the vehicle for exercise and mimics movement patterns encountered in everyday life. Examples of functional movements include squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, lifting from the ground, lifting or hoisting overhead, bending, reaching, rotating, balancing, jumping and landing, sitting up, and getting up and down off of the ground.

The examples of functional movements mentioned translate to common daily activities, including getting into and out of the car, sitting down and standing up from a seated position or on the floor, lifting heavy laundry baskets or bags of groceries, carrying kids around or heavy bags of groceries up and down flights of stairs, digging or pulling weeds, pushing a vacuum cleaner or lawnmower, or reaching upward to place an item onto a shelf. Reducing these activities to their basic body mechanics and practicing them in our workouts will help us to move with increased quality, efficiency, and purpose across all activities of our daily lives.

If we neglect to keep our bodies strong and fit enough to perform these movements correctly, we become more vulnerable to short-term injuries and even long-term limitations in the types of activities we can enjoy. Another crucial point to stress with practicing functional exercises is that they help us to remain mobile and independent as we age; if we sustain an injury, fall, or become chronically or permanently debilitated due to lack of fitness, we have to rely on others to take care of us. The best option is to pursue regular exercise starting from a young age and continue it throughout our life to remain physically healthy and independent.

Perhaps the strongest feature of functional exercises is that they are safe to perform and adaptable to all ages and fitness levels, meaning that there are no limits to who can benefit from them. These types of movements can be kept simple and straightforward, or you can choose to add challenge and creativity to them by implementing external resistance, adding a balance component, or by incorporating other elements of fitness such as speed or coordination.

Investing time and effort in exercise not only allows us to reap numerous health benefits, but also adds undeniable value to our lives. It is important to note that to derive the vast benefits that exercise offers requires time, patience, and consistency on behalf of the exerciser. It is also essential to understand that physical fitness is only one contributing factor to better overall health, albeit an extremely powerful one. Other key factors include proper nutrition, sound mental wellbeing, as well as a sufficient and consistent sleep schedule. Maximizing all of these components is the best way to further bolster the health benefits of physical activity. If you are willing to put in the work, you are sure to see the results!

Workplace Options offers its employees a variety of wellness services and resources to support a healthy and active lifestyle, including on-site personal training, daily workout videos and blog posts shared through Yammer and a designated YouTube channel, wellness coaching, quarterly wellness challenges, incentives for daily wellness walks, and more.

Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family, and personal needs to become healthier, happier, and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness, and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals, and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. To learn more visit www.workplaceoptions.com. 

Disclaimer: This document is intended for general information only. It does not provide the reader with specific direction, advice, or recommendations. You may wish to contact an appropriate professional for questions concerning your particular situation.

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