By: Shray Ambe, Chaveli De La Caridad Concepcion, Laila Goharioon, Camira Williams-Liggins, Yirong Wang, and Amanda Freeman
Why is Exercise Important?
Weight bearing exercises, such as jumping rope, dancing, or playing tennis, help strengthen your bones. In these exercises, your bones must support your body in more demanding ways than during normal daily activities. If this causes an extreme amount of stress, or if your bones are weak, then you may fracture a bone. However, the small amount of stress that this usually causes actually stimulates reinforcement of the bone which makes it stronger. A two year study demonstrated that as little as 10 minutes of high-impact exercises three times a week is sufficient to significantly increase bone density in girls aged 8-11.
Similar to the way it triggers bone growth, exercise stimulates the production of muscle proteins which are added in to your existing muscles which increases the muscle size. The increase in muscle protein and muscle cell size makes muscle contractions more forceful and allows you to run faster or to lift heavier objects. This benefit isn’t restricted to the muscles in your arms and your legs. Since your heart is a muscle, requiring it to work harder during regular exercise can make it stronger too. A stronger heart can pump blood more efficiently and faster. This allows your blood to carry more oxygen to your muscles which they need to keep exercising and increases your endurance.
Exercise doesn’t just benefit our physical health, it also has cognitive benefits. Second and third grade students with higher levels of cardiovascular fitness, as measured in a running based challenge, also perform better in mathematics and spelling. The mechanism underlying this relationship is still not fully understood, but could be due to increased stimulation of growth factors in the brain, increased brain cell production, or the strategies and cognitive skills learned during the physical activities.
Some of the benefits of exercise are visible without a microscope, but some can’t be seen without specialized medical testing. Some of the benefits of exercise will be applicable to your life today and some won’t be evident for decades. Regardless, today is a great day to get up and get moving on your way to improved physical and mental health!
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