Like most things, there are positives and negatives of exercise. It's important to understand its pitfalls so that you can stay injury-free and reap the rewards. The benefits are numerous for your body and mind, but too much of a good thing can harm you.
Fitness is part of the equation for a healthy lifestyle. Throughout your life, it's important to maintain a consistent workout routine. Many people are drawn to exercise because of the aesthetic benefit. Burning fat and building mass can improve your self-esteem, but exercise does much more for your body than just tone the muscles.
Different Types of Workouts
There are two major types of exercise: cardiovascular and resistance training. They both make your heart pump and your muscles burn but have different effects on the body.
Cardiovascular exercise has more benefits for the cardiovascular system, as the Cleveland Clinic points out. The heart and lungs benefit from things like jogging, cycling, swimming and other endurance activities.
While long, low-intensity activities are popular forms of cardiovascular exercise, you can do short-burst activities like sprinting and circuit training. High-intensity training benefits your heart, but it also puts stress on your joints and central nervous system.
Resistance exercise builds more muscle and strength than cardiovascular training. There's some crossover between the different forms of exercise, though. Your cardiovascular system benefits from lifting weights, and you can build muscle from aerobic activities.
Musculoskeletal Benefits of Exercise
Whatever form of exercise you choose, some or most of your muscles will be used. Your muscles are incredibly active, particularly during a workout, because they need fuel.
These tissues use glycogen, a form of sugar, to power contractions. They can also use oxygen. As your muscles contract, they generate waste products like lactic acid, which need to be eliminated. Your blood brings nutrients into the muscle and carries waste products out.
One of the benefits of exercise is that your muscles use sugar. This is particularly useful for diabetics since they can have difficulty regulating their blood glucose levels. Exercise lowers your blood sugar and can even help manage and prevent Type II diabetes in the long-term.
By working your muscles, you'll become stronger, which can make your life a little bit easier. When you're stronger, you have an easier time lifting heavy objects, such as bags of groceries or a suitcase. This is important, particularly as you age, because you can maintain your independence. Exercise also improves your balance, which decreases your risk of falling later in life.
When your muscles contract, they pull on tendons and bones, causing these tissues to grow stronger and thicker. Over time, this may lower your risk of injury.
Cardiovascular Benefits of Exercise
Heart disease is the number one risk for death for adults in the United States, regardless of gender. Exercise is recommended to decrease risk because it fights multiple risk factors for heart disease.
Physical activity lowers blood pressure, which is one of the major contributing factors to cardiovascular events. During your workout, your blood pressure can actually increase, but it drops after exercise. Your average blood pressure throughout the day is also lower if you exercise.
Working out can help you quit smoking, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. Going to the gym when you're craving a cigarette can make it easier to fight the instinct to smoke. The gym also helps relieve stress, making you feel like you don't actually need a cigarette.
While losing body fat is a highly sought-after effect of exercise in terms of appearance, it's also crucial for heart health. If you're obese, you're at greater risk for heart disease, but losing weight can help reverse that risk. Exercise burns calories and helps decrease body fat, leading to a lower risk of obesity and weight gain.
Mental Benefits From Working Out
Your mental health will improve if you start working out consistently. The effects of exercise on your mind are so potent that exercise could be considered a "psychoactive drug" according to a September 2012 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.
Any form of exercise can help you relax. While it might not seem very relaxing during the workout as you're struggling to finish your set or hit a certain mile marker on the treadmill, you should feel better afterward. For that reason, exercise is helpful for treating anxiety.
Workouts are a mood booster for multiple reasons. During exercise, feel-good chemicals called endorphins are released, which makes you feel happier and wards off depression. In addition to this short-term mood booster, the boost in self-confidence that comes from working hard in the gym and changing your body can make you feel better in daily life.
After a good workout, you'll probably feel pretty tired. Exercise helps you sleep better because you've spent more energy during the day and need to recover from your workout.
Negatives of Exercise
It's important to learn about the disadvantages of exercise so that you can avoid them. While physical activity has a host of benefits, there are drawbacks that can be quite harmful. The first and perhaps most common is the risk of injury. A December 2015 study in Injury Epidemiology has found that certain forms of exercise were more commonly associated with injury.
According to the study, the most common causes of injury were overexertion, bad technique or unnatural exercises. The most common areas of the gym for injuries were the free weight section and cardio section. Injuries in the cardio section came from tripping and falling on equipment.
Seeking professional help to learn proper exercise technique can help you stay injury-free. Aso, avoid pushing yourself too hard as it can increase your odds of getting injured and stall your progress.
In rare cases, exercise is dangerous for your heart. If you have an underlying heart condition, the strain from exercise can exacerbate it.
The most extreme case is sudden cardiac death in athletes, where a seemingly healthy person suffers a heart attack during a sporting event or workout. Although it's rare, you should see your doctor regularly to check for any underlying heart conditions.
In addition to the risks for your body, there are mental negatives of exercise. Exercise is a form of stress relief, and the benefits are so powerful that they can be addicting. Exercise addiction is an unhealthy compulsion to exercise that interferes with your life.
If you find that you or someone you know is working out to the point where they're losing too much weight or are chronically ill or injured, they may be addicted to exercise. This is a psychological issue and should be dealt with by a trained psychologist or psychiatrist.
- University of New Mexico: "Exercise Addiction"
- Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal: "Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes"
- Injury Epidemiology: "The Causes of Injuries Sustained at Fitness Facilities Presenting to Victorian Emergency Departments - Identifying the Main Culprits"
- ACE Fitness: "The Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health"
- Walden University: "5 Mental Benefits of Exercise"
- British Journal of Pharmacology: "Exercise Acts as a Drug; The Pharmacological Benefits of Exercise"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "7 Heart Benefits of Exercise"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Secret to Better Health — Exercise"
- MedlinePlus: "Benefits of Exercise"
- The Journal of Physiology: "Muscle Glycogen Stores and Fatigue"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Physiologic Responses and Long-Term Adaptations to Exercise"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Cardio vs. Resistance Training: Which is Healthier?"