Happy Monday, and welcome to the second installment of Medical Mondays!
As a fitness junkie with an Exercise Biology degree, a love for all sorts of physical activity, and aspirations to someday set national records in powerlifting, this topic had to have been at least somewhat expected, right? ;P
As this topic is insanely broad, there’s no way I can do it justice in a single post. This will be more of a broad overview on the benefits & risks of exercise.
Let’s start with this: a sedentary lifestyle is the cause for a multitude of health problems all over the world, especially in developed countries.
Most American adults don’t meet the national guidelines for being physically active (150 minutes of physical activity per week), and physical inactivity has been associated with a lot of poor health outcomes, including increased mortality.
I don’t know about you, but there’s a lot I want to accomplish with my life, and if there’s something I can do to decrease the risk of being snuffed out early, I’m all for it.
Benefits of Exercise
- Aerobic training leads to a decrease in your “bad” cholesterol, and an increase in your “good” cholesterol.
- Aerobic training also has positive effects on your body composition and aerobic capacity (e.g. if you ever want to outrun people in a zombie apocalypse, you probably want a higher aerobic capacity than most).
- Long-term aerobic exercise + strength training has a beneficial effect on systemic blood pressure.
- Exercise may reduce the risk of stroke.
- There was a significant reduced risk of colon cancer in a study comparing the most vs. the least active individuals.
- Weight-bearing exercise is associated with an increase in bone mineral density in both genders.
- Observational studies suggest that physical activity may reduce the risk of dementia + cognitive decline in older patients.
- Regular exercise reduces stress, anxiety and depression.
Risks of Exercise
The benefits of physical activity vastly outweigh the possible associated risks, but there are obviously risks to exercise that I should mention, as there is a such thing as “too much of a good thing!”
- The most common one is musculoskeletal injury (e.g. strains, tears, inflammation, stress/traumatic fractures).
- There is an increased risk of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) during exercise in patients with a prior history of arrhythmia, or underlying heart disease.
- Sudden cardiac death is rare, but can occur during physical or sexual activity. The risk is less, or may not be increased at all if you’re a habitual exerciser! (This is one of the reasons why so many exercise programs tell you to consult your physician before starting!)
- Extreme physical exertion for extended periods of time could potentially lead to rhabdomyolysis, which is when your body is failing to supply your muscles with sufficient energy. Severe complications can include kidney failure and electrolyte abnormalities.
- Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction can occur in people with symptomatic asthma. Improving their cardiovascular fitness can help to decrease the stimulus for bronchoconstriction, which can help prevent its onset!
Because of this, I’ve found two awesome communities–Girls Gone Sporty and Sweat Pink, where I’ve “met” (yay for technology + hopeful someday IRL-meetups!) so many inspiring and amazing ladies dedicated to living and leading healthy lifestyles (e.g. with Sweat Pink’s #NoExcuses Challenge). <3
I hope to use what I learn to someday be able to instill that on my future patients, and to encourage and support them on their own journeys towards better health and fitness! :]