Physical activity for a healthy weight

Why is regular physical activity important? How does it affect my weight and well-being? How much physical activity do I need?

Regular physical activity is important for good health, and this is especially important if you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Weight can also be reduced only by limiting the number of calories ingested and additional physical activity is not mandatory – however, we all like to eat, and reducing portions “per eye” is usually difficult.

Increasing physical activity also increases the number of calories consumed – you spend more calories and in order to lose weight you need to limit yourself less in terms of eating 😊.

Physical activity is understood as any movement that makes muscles work and the body spend more energy – everything that speeds up your metabolism.

There are many types of physical activity, including swimming, jogging, Nordic walking, walking, and dancing …

An active lifestyle improves both physical and mental health and helps us live longer.

 

Physical activity can improve Mood

Exercise has been proven to improve mood and reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and stress, as it causes changes in the parts of the brain that regulate these processes.

Physical activity can also increase the sensitivity of the brain to hormones such as serotonin and norepinephrine, and promote the production of endorphins that help generate positive sensations and reduce the perception of pain.

Interestingly, it doesn’t matter how intense the workout/physical activity is. It seems that exercise can improve mood regardless of intensity – a study of women with diagnosed depression has shown that exercise of any intensity significantly reduces feelings of depression.

 There are also several studies in which active people who stopped regular physical activity had a significant increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

 

Physical activity helps to lose weight

We all know (and this is confirmed by research) that a sedentary lifestyle is a major factor in weight gain and obesity.

Exercise is very important for maintaining a healthy metabolism because it helps us maintain muscle mass while losing weight and, therefore, we “burn” more calories every day.

To understand the impact of exercise on weight loss, it is important to understand the relationship between physical activity and energy consumption. Your body uses energy in three ways:

  • Digesting/processing food;
  • Maintaining body functions such as heartbeat, breathing, etc.;
  • Moving.
 

The consumption of energy (calories) to maintain body functions while following a diet does not change significantly.

Energy consumption for food processing may vary slightly from one side or the other – depending on what you eat during your diet.

Significantly increase energy consumption and thereby accelerate weight loss is possible only by increasing physical activity. Here, however, it should be noted that with a significant increase in your physical activity, at first, the weight will increase, because the muscles will “absorb” water.

Studies have proven that to maintain muscle mass and “burn” fat, the most optimal option is a combination of cardio exercises with strength training.

 

Physical activity improves muscle and bone strength

Physical activity helps strengthen muscles and bones. It can also help prevent osteoporosis.

When losing weight, this is especially important – the more muscle mass decreases, the fewer calories your body needs, and weight loss becomes more difficult.

Strength exercises help release hormones that promote the ability of muscles to absorb amino acids. This helps the muscles grow and reduces their loss when you are in a calorie deficit (protein intake should also be adjusted accordingly).

In addition, with age, people tend to lose muscle mass, which, in turn, increases the risk of injury. In other words, the older we get, the more important regular physical activity becomes if we want to reduce the loss of muscle mass, maintain strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.

The increase in bone density is best promoted by physical activity, such as gymnastics, running, football, basketball, etc.

 

Physical activity increases our energy levels

Regular physical activity can significantly increase our energy levels and reduce the feeling of fatigue.

The more we move, the more actively our heart works – pumping more blood and supplying our muscles and organs with more oxygen.

Thanks to regular exercises, we train our heart and vascular system and, as a result, more and more efficiently supply organs and muscles with oxygen, which is necessary to provide us with energy during prolonged exertion (aerobic metabolism).

Over time, lung function also becomes more efficient, and our energy consumption for performing the same actions decreases. This is one of the reasons why with regular exercise, during intense physical activity, breathing becomes easier over time.

 

Physical activity reduces the risk of chronic diseases

Lack of regular physical activity is the main cause of chronic diseases.

Regular exercise has been proven to improve insulin sensitivity, heart health, and body composition. Exercise can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Exercise can help delay, alleviate, or prevent chronic conditions such as:

 

In contrast, a lack of regular physical activity, even in the short term, can significantly increase belly fat and subsequently increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

 

Physical activity helps improve skin health

Physical activity can reduce the effects of oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress occurs when there is a lack of antioxidants in the body and, therefore, it is not able to completely eliminate the cell damage caused by compounds known as free radicals. If this happens – the cellular structure is damaged, which also negatively affects our skin.

While prolonged and intense physical activity can contribute to oxidative damage, regular moderate-intensity physical activity promotes the production of natural antioxidants and thus helps protect cells.

Exercise also stimulates blood flow, promoting the regeneration of skin cells, which can help delay the appearance of signs of skin aging.

 

Physical activity improves brain health and memory

Regular physical activity increases blood circulation in the brain and thus improves brain health and memory.

Exercise increases the heart rate, which, in turn, promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Exercise also stimulates the production of hormones that promote the growth of brain cells.

Regular physical activity is especially important for the elderly, since aging, oxidative stress, and inflammation contribute to changes in the structure and function of the brain.

It has been shown that exercise causes an increase in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that is essential for memory and learning), which can help improve mental function in the elderly.

It has also been proven that physical activity reduces changes in the brain, changes that can contribute to diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

 

Physical activity improves sleep quality

Regular aerobic workouts, as well as a combination of aerobic and strength training, can help improve sleep quality and give more energy throughout the day.

It is believed that an increase in body temperature during physical exertion improves the quality of sleep, and the energy depletion that occurs during exercise stimulates the recovery processes during sleep.

There are studies that show that regular workouts:

  • Help improve sleep quality and reduce sleep delay (the time it takes to fall asleep);
  • Improve sleep in people with chronic insomnia;
  • Improve falling asleep after waking up, duration, and the quality of sleep;
  • Relieves anxiety.
 

Regular physical activity seems to be especially useful for the elderly, who are more likely to have sleep disorders.

 

Physical Activity Can Relieve Pain

Studies have shown that physically active people have a lower risk of developing chronic pain.

Although rest and peace are usually recommended to relieve chronic pain, recent studies have shown that exercise helps relieve chronic pain and improve quality of life.

Several studies also suggest that exercise can help control pain associated with health conditions such as chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain in the soft tissues of the shoulders.

Physical activity can also increase pain tolerance and reduce pain perception.

 

Physical Activity Can Improve Sex Life

Physical exercise has been proven to improve sexual desire, function, and performance in both men and women and can help reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction in men.

Regular physical activity strengthens the heart, improves blood circulation, and tones muscles, which together can improve sexual activity and sexual pleasure while increasing the frequency of sexual activities.

Interestingly, some studies show that regular physical activity increases sexual function and desire in postmenopausal women.

Several studies show that physical activity also improves sexual function in men, such as:

 

How much physical activity do I need?

If we talk about weight regulation, people are very different and, therefore, the amount of physical activity they need is also different.

However, there are some general recommendations:

  • Weight maintenance – requires at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity or an equivalent combination of both types each week. Studies have shown that physical activity can help you maintain your weight in the long run;
  • Weight loss – an ideal option is to combine physical activity with a healthy eating plan that meets the goal. If you don’t change your eating habits, the amount of physical activity you need may be too much. To start losing weight, you need a calorie deficit of about 10-15%, and if you like high-calorie foods and drinks, you may not be able to provide the energy consumption necessary for weight loss (calorie deficit) with physical activity. This is especially true for people who are very overweight (the more weight you have – the harder to move).
 

What are moderate and high-intensity activities?

During moderate-intensity physical activity, your breathing and heart rate are significantly faster, but you can still talk fluently.

Examples:

  1. Fast walk (about 6 km per hour);
  2. Housework (leaf raking, lawn mowing, snow removal, etc.);
  3. Active play with children;
  4. Riding a bike at an average pace.
 

During high-intensity physical activity, your heart rate is significantly accelerated and you breathe too hard and fast to talk.

Examples:

  • Running;
  • Roller skating/ice skating at a fast pace;
  • Cross-country skiing;
  • Most competitive sports (football, basketball, etc.);
  • Jump rope.
 

How many calories do I consume?

The indicated amount of calories consumed is approximate, as it depends on the level of physical fitness, weight, age, and intensity of activity of each person.

Calorie consumption when performing moderate-intensity activities for a person weighing 70 kg.

Activity

Kcal during 30 min.

Kcal during 60 min.

Hiking

185

370

Easy Gardening

165

330

Dancing

165

330

Walking and Nordic walking

165

330

Cycling (<17 km/h)

145

290

Walking (about 6 km/h)

140

280

Weightlifting (general light exercise)

110

220

Stretching

90

180

 

Calorie consumption when performing high-intensity activities for a person weighing 70 kg.

Activity

Kcal during 30 min.

Kcal during 60 min.

Running (8 km/h)

295

590

Cycling (>17 km/h)

295

590

Swimming (moderate, freestyle)

255

510

Aerobics

240

480

Walking (about 7 km/h)

230

460

Heavy gardening (chopping wood)

220

440

Weight lifting (vigorous effort)

 

440

Basketball

220

440

 

Key takeaways

Regular physical activity can improve almost every aspect of your life – from your physical well-being and general health to the quality of your sleep and, ultimately, it makes you feel happier – 😊.

Regular physical activity also brings such quite practical benefits as:

  • Improves the appearance of our skin;
  • Helps to lose weight and maintain it;
  • Improves our sex life;
  • Reduces the risks of chronic diseases.
 

And in order to significantly improve your well-being and health, you do not have to “get lost” in the gym every day.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity is anything that makes your heart beat faster – homework, playing with children, walking, cycling, swimming …

Even regular walks at an average pace are enough – two, three, or five hours a week.

 

If you want to do more than the minimum necessary

Ideally, strength training would be performed at least 2 days a week, since maintaining and strengthening muscles is very important. If you decide to start strength training, train all muscle groups – legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.

In strength training, of course, you can use weights, but so can resistance tapes or your own body weight (which is available always and everywhere and completely for free).

 

Move and be healthy!

 

Sources:

The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways

The effects of weekly exercise time on VO2max and resting metabolic rate in normal adults

Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and the Metabolic Syndrome

Comparative effectiveness of aerobic, resistance, and combined training on cardiovascular disease risk factors

Aerobic or Resistance Exercise, or Both, in Dieting Obese Older Adults

Aerobic With Resistance Training or Aerobic Training Alone Poststroke

Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods

Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men

Nutrition and Exercise in Sarcopenia

Influence of Adolescents’ Physical Activity on Bone Mineral Acquisition

Active and sedentary behaviors influence feelings of energy and fatigue in women

Feelings of energy are associated with physical activity and sleep quality, but not adiposity, in middle-aged postmenopausal women

The effect of a single bout of exercise on energy and fatigue states

Effects of Exercise to Improve Cardiovascular Health

Exercise and Lung Health

Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes

Effects of Exercise to Improve Cardiovascular Health

An Overview of Current Physical Activity Recommendations in Primary Care

Oxidative stress and skin diseases: possible role of physical activity

The Antioxidant Effect of Exercise

Exercise-stimulated interleukin-15 is controlled by AMPK and regulates skin metabolism and aging

Physical Activity and Brain Health

Physical exercise and cognitive performance in the elderly

Promoting brain health through exercise and diet in older adults

Cognitive plasticity in older adults: effects of cognitive training and physical exercise

The effects of physical activity on sleep

Exercise can improve sleep quality

Sleep, recovery, and metaregulation: explaining the benefits of sleep

Exercise training improves sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with sleep problems

Effects of resistance exercise training and stretching on chronic insomnia

Effects of physical activity programs on sleep outcomes in older adults

Effect of different types of exercise on sleep quality of elderly subjects

Aerobic training increases pain tolerance in healthy individuals

Pain sensitivity is reduced by exercise training

The Effects of Exercise on Sexual Function in Women

An investigation of the relationship between physical fitness, self-concept, and sexual functioning

Sexual Function and Exercise in Postmenopausal Women Residing in Chalous and Nowshahr, Northern Iran

Impact of Physical Resistance Training on the Sexual Function of Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

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