Have you ever returned home from a run or the gym invigorated and full of life? Your blood is pumping, you’re alive, you feel alive! Afterwards and a few endorphins later, you felt a sense of relaxation and contentment that is nearly impossible to duplicate. Anyone who works out regularly enough to not be utterly exhausted by the idea of athletics can appreciate this. That sense of satisfaction alone is a sign for why exercise is so important. Exercise helps strengthen and regulate your mind and body and is not just for professional athletes or people that play them on TV. Everyone benefits from exercise, and by pointing out how exercise can benefit people with more challenging situations, you might be able to find a way that exercise can improve your life.
There are many different examples I could use to display why exercise can improve your quality of life. However, today I will focus on the non-athletic side of the exercise coin. This includes people recovering from an injury, people who are obese, and people who have a disabling handicap. Each one of these people are less active then they should be and probably don’t consider themselves candidates for the Boston Marathon. Nevertheless, by overcoming their hurdles, they will be happier, healthier, and more functional in their lives then ever before.
Everyone has stress. People with disabilities, injuries, or illness experience different types of stress. Due to these disabilities, life is usually more complicated so normal stressful experiences can seem amplified. Besides driving you crazy, stress can weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to illness. However, vigorous activity tends to stimulate the release of endorphins. This can calm you down and ease your mental and physical pains. Also, regular exercise also strengthens your body. By working out hard, you stimulate your immune system which improves overall resiliency which in turn makes you more resistant to bugs like the common cold. If you are lucky, you might even improve any asthma or allergy symptoms you might have.
Fatigue is another big problem for people with a long term or chronic condition. Sedentary activity, whether chosen or due to injury or illness, will lower a person’s endurance which makes it harder to physically and mentally attack the day. However, by spending more time on that treadmill and lifting weights, you can increase your metabolism, giving you that blast of energy you need. In fact, regular exercise can make your chores seem easier. So when you’re done — you still have energy for the fun.
(Photo: Property of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disabilities)
Not only can regular exercise improve a person’s life in the present, but it will make your future better too! The most obvious way exercise can help is by helping you maintain a healthy weight. Besides increasing the sexiness, you make it easier on your body by minimizing the physical stress placed on your body from excess weight – specifically on your muscles and joints. Over time this can either delay or eliminate the onset of arthritis. Regular exercise can also help prevent common wear and tear injuries. Strength training results in stronger muscles that keep the joints safe and secure. Regular cardiovascular exercise results in a healthy heart and vasculature. Both these systems can be worn down with simply misuse and time, but with proper maintenance they can function well for many years to come.
Finally, exercise may actually improve your health so that problems that were at one time disabling can be forgotten. For example, regular strength training can take weak bones from osteoporosis and make them stronger. Improvements are more interesting when considering the nervous system. With strength training, the nervous system is encouraged to grow and adapt. This is the same process that allows you to learn new skills. So by exercising, you are setting your brain and body up for success when it comes to adapting to challenges. An impressive example of this has been observed in people with Parkinson’s disease. Regular bouts of vigorous cycling exercises that pushed them out of their comfort zone reduced the tremor symptoms of the condition and made their life easier.
(Photo: Property of ScienceBuddies.org)
By now, it is clear that by incorporating regular exercise into your regular routine, anyone can find a benefit of some kind. When it comes to individuals with disabilities it may be the difference between a good and a poor quality of life. It would be a good idea to take the time, regardless of your situation, to determine what you can do to improve your health. How can you exercise? How often is appropriate for you? Talk with your doctors and any other healthcare providers. The sooner you learn how to tackle this part of your life the sooner you can experience the benefits.