Saturday, 9th March 2024

The Power of Exercise – guest blog

Guest Blog

This week I am having a break – with your fortnightly nag being provided by Nina Edward (many thanks Nina). I am pleased to say that she and I seem to be in agreement – so read on!

The Power of Exercise in Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases and Promoting Overall Health

The United Kingdom (UK) ranks 11th  as the most inactive country out of 15 European countries polled with 36% of its adults 18 years and above not meeting physical activity requirements according to the Sports and Recreation Alliance. It is also the 3rd highest spender on healthcare costs caused by inactivity. Unfortunately, physical inactivity is one of the risk factors for mortality with 89% of deaths in the UK attributed  to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The good news is leading sports and recreation bodies are advocating to make the UK ‘the most active nation in Europe’ calling on main political parties and leaders to support the campaign. Indeed, exercise offers many benefits including the prevention of NCDs and the promotion of overall health and wellbeing.

Weight Management

Exercise plays a crucial role in weight management helping in burning calories which is essential for weight loss or maintenance. The more intense your exercise is, the more calories you burn. Regular physical activity can also boost your resting metabolic rate, meaning that your body continues to burn calories even when at rest. In addition, strength training and resistance exercises preserve and build lean muscle mass which can contribute to a higher resting metabolic rate. By being physically active, you may have a better control of food intake and improve your body’s ability to use fat as a fuel source. 

According to statistics, 25% of UK adults are categorised as obese with the prevalence of obesity higher in men (68.8%) than in women (59%). Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases including hypertension which can increase the probability of heart disease and stroke. Being obese is also closely associated with insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes.

The lack of movement is also one of the reasons for chronic pain. Whilst you can improve posture when sitting at your desk or use ergonomic furniture, exercise can enhance blood flow/circulation, reduce inflammation, and alter the way the nervous system perceives and responds to pain signals.  It can improve your muscle strength and flexibility which helps in osteoarthritis and back pain conditions. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Alliance, less than 28 million of people in the UK suffer from chronic pain. Hence, exercise can alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain.

Cardiovascular Health

Physical activity has a pivotal role in promoting cardiovascular health, offering a range of benefits that positively impact the heart and the circulatory system. When you exercise regularly, you reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and improve your overall well-being. Regular movement strengthens your heart muscle enhancing its ability to pump blood efficiently which leads to improved circulation and oxygen delivery. Furthermore, exercise helps lower your blood pressure reducing hypertension risk through easing the overall workload on the heart. Being fit also diminished chronic inflammation that can lead to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases.

Working out raises higher-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol which is the ‘good cholesterol’, reducing your risk of a heart disease. Likewise, keeping yourself fit can assist in lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or the ‘bad cholesterol).’ As mentioned before, exercise cuts the risk of diabetes through regulating blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity improvement. Type 2 diabetes is a significant cardiovascular risk factor. Hence, exercise can benefit the 4.3 million people, (out of which 90% are type 2 diabetes) living with the disease. By staying active and managing your weight, you can prevent type 2 diabetes and trim down the risk of getting heart problems. 

Cancer Prevention

When you meet the minimum physical activity requirements, you are contributing positively to your general health and potentially lowering the risk of developing cancer. To illustrate, maintaining a healthy weight prevents obesity which is a known risk factor for several types of cancer including breast, colorectal, endometrial, and kidney cancer. Cancer Research UK indicates that all cancers combined are anticipated to rise by 2% between 2023-2025. Thus, working out on a regular basis can help lower your risk of getting certain types of cancer.

Physical activity can aid in the regulation of hormone levels including estrogen and insulin. Elevated levels of these hormones have been linked to breast and endometrial cancer. Furthermore, chronic inflammation is implicated in the development of cancer. On the other hand, regular exercise offers anti-inflammatory effects potentially reducing your risk of inflammation-related cancers such as colon, pancreatic, and liver cancers. When you work out frequently, you also improve your digestive health and enhance your immune system which plays a significant role in detecting and eliminating potentially cancerous cells.

Respiratory Health

One in five people is affected by a respiratory disease and is the third major cause of mortality in England according to the National Health Service (NHS) England. For this reason, the NHS Long Term Plan identified respiratory disease as a ‘clinical priority’ with the aim of transforming better or equal outcomes compared to international partners. Exercise can offer several advantages in preventing respiratory diseases.

To demonstrate, aerobic exercise such as running, cycling, and swimming can enhance your lung capacity by improving the efficiency of oxygen exchange. It can also strengthen your diaphragm and intercostal muscles leading to improved respiratory muscle function. If you have a chronic respiratory condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, physical movement can assist manage symptoms, enhance endurance, and promote overall quality of life.  Regular physical movement can also reduce breathlessness and improve tolerance of physical activity in individuals with respiratory conditions.

In summary, exercise is a powerful tool in preventing NCDs and in promoting overall health. Incorporating regular physical activity into your lifestyle is an effective strategy for maintaining health and in preventing a range of chronic conditions.


2 responses to “The Power of Exercise – guest blog”

  1. Alistair Donald MacDonald says:

    Wonderful. The key is to have the self discipline to organise our lives to do the needful in this busy world. Perhaps a blog on how we try and do that would be useful!!

    • Hugh Bethell says:

      What a challenge Alistair. I fear that what you ask is well outside my area of expertise but I will give it some thought. If anyone out there has a response I would be delighted to receive it and post it. Perhaps I could start with measures which can be taken to encourage more physical activity. I have written about this in the past – see under “Exercise promotion”

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