We’re often advised to take some exercise as part of a good health routine. It’s something I have mentioned many times in the past, and is undoubtedly beneficial.
But is exercise always good for us?
Being active is a natural part of our physical make up, and therefore an essential element of good self-regulation in the body and homeostatic balance. Our Lymph system, for instance, so crucial for detoxing, does not have its own pump like the circulatory system has, and therefore relies on muscle movement to ensure a good flow whilst simple maths tells us that in order to maintain a stable weight we need to expend roughly the same energy (by exercise) as we take in (by eating).
In the past our lifestyles would ensure that we were naturally more active as our daily lives involved more physical activity and work.
Modern living can have a negative impact on this, as it can for so many other aspects of our health! With more labour saving devices, more technology, and less manual jobs we spend more time in sedentary mode. As a result we need to make a conscious effort to exercise, and it is this that can actually lead to problems.
The issue really is the type of exercise that we are taking, how much we are doing, and when. Relatively gentle exercise, suited to our metabolism and energy levels, interspersed with short periods of higher activity are, for many, ideal. This approach helps to expend calories, maintain and improve flexibility and, by putting the muscles under pressure during the more intense activity, actually helps to increase the body’s ability to create more cellular energy, so important for overall health. It is this type of exercise that we would naturally have achieved in the past.
However in our desire to be more healthy, and the increased need to deliberately think about taking exercise, we can accidentally over do things!
Extreme exercise such as endurance sports or excessive activity in a short space of time, for example, actually acts as a stress on the body and therefore triggers our immune response. Not really an issue if it happens occasionally but potentially very problematic if it is a frequent occurrence as it can lead to muscle and organ damage, and promote chronic inflammation – not good!
And exercising when our energy levels are too low is also harmful.
Whereas normally exercise can help to increase the body’s energy building capacity, over utilising an already low resource will only serve to deplete it further as the body won’t be able to replace it quickly enough (it needs energy to do this too!).
So how to exercise for the good of your health rather than to its detriment?
- Firstly do something you enjoy and can easily incorporate into your life. In this way you are far more likely to stick to it. Remember taking a walk every day is just as good as spending an hour at the gym.
- Take some gentle exercise regularly rather than a lot of intense exercise infrequently. You can’t compensate for not exercising by doing a lot at once. As noted above, this is likely to do more harm than good!
- Listen to what your body is telling you. When you feel over tired or are in pain, stop. The tiredness and pain is your body telling you that it’s had enough and your energy is getting too low.
- And remember that you will get it wrong from time to time and do too much! But, again, just take note of what your body is telling you and make sure you give it plenty of time to recover.