June is Brain Health Month

The Benefits of Exercise: Now and in the Future
By Blaine Jackson, NASM-CPT (Blaine Jackson is the Wellness Coordinator for Epworth Villa)

Don’t look for instant weight loss or muscle tone, but many benefits are instantly noticeable.

How many people set a New Year’s resolution to attend the gym more often? Sadly, most new exercisers quit within six months of starting a program, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Expecting immediate results in the form of muscle tone or weight loss makes it easy to go back to old habits when goals take longer than you’d like. Setting reasonable expectations at the start may help you stick with your program long enough to reap exercise’s benefits — immediate ones and ones that you’ll see over time.

Immediate Benefits of Exercise: Improved Mood and More.

When you begin exercising, bodily changes occur within seconds. Your heart rate speeds up and extra blood is delivered to your muscles. Your metabolic machinery gets into action right away, increasing the rate of calories you burn. This provides the extra nutrient and oxygen needs of your active muscles. A great byproduct of this is improved mood. Your brain releases a number of different feel-good neurotransmitters — brain chemicals — including endorphins and serotonin, also known for its role in mood and depression. In fact, short, 10-minute bouts of activity improve focus and concentration. You will also quickly sleep better, feel better, have more energy and be less stressed. And also be aware that although weight loss takes time, blood fats like triglycerides drop after just one exercise session.

After a Week or Two: Weight Loss, Tone and Flexibility

When you implement a regular exercise regime, you can see a difference in the numbers on the scale in as little as a week. If you combine your physical activity with healthy eating changes and reasonable calorie consumption, you will see bigger weight loss.

Keep in mind that in order to lose a pound of fat you need to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories. So to lose a pound in a week you’ll need to either cut out 500 calories a day, burn 500 extra calories a day or do a combination of eating less and moving more.

If you’re striving for greater flexibility, a week of stretching should enable you to feel more limber and agile. Consistent strength training for the entire body practiced alongside cardio and eating a healthy diet can show the beginnings of muscle definition in as little as two weeks

Within Three Weeks: Cardiovascular Benefits

Pushing yourself with cardio four to five days a week should start to produce major changes within two to three weeks. When you exercise, heart rate increases to circulate more oxygen (via the blood) at a quicker pace. The more you exercise, the more efficient the heart becomes at this process, so you can work out harder and longer. Eventually, this lowers resting heart rate in fit people. An average adult’s heart beats between 60 to 100 beats per minute, while a trained athlete may have a resting heart rate as low as 40 to 60 bpm. In addition, the growth of new blood vessels leads to a decrease in blood pressure as you become more fit.

Long-Term Benefits of Exercise

The impact of exercise doesn’t change if you’re over 50, either. The body responds similarly regardless of age. Research studies on the benefits of weight training show that those in their 70’s and 80’s experience the same 20 percent increase in strength after just eight weeks.

Despite slow-to-see changes in the mirror, the inside of your body and the health enhancements experienced by your key body organs come on quickly. So while weight loss and muscle tone may be your initial motivation, continuing a regular exercise and overall healthy lifestyle routine is vital to maintain the improvements you gain.

Regular physical activity not only helps you feel and look younger but helps you stay independent longer, too. Exercise also lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, obesity and high blood pressure. Regular exercise can also help prevent loss of bone mass and can help improve balance, actually reducing the risk of falling.

In addition, older adults (55 to 74 years) with good cardiovascular fitness show increased brain activity patterns in regions of the brain associated with typical age-related decline along with better memory

While changes in hormones, metabolism, bone density and muscle mass decline with age, you can still have a sense of accomplishment from physical activity, and always know that a sedentary lifestyle takes a much greater toll on physical ability that biological aging.