A healthy lifestyle isn’t something you can achieve overnight. It takes hard work and discipline not only to reach an optimal level of health, but also to maintain it. Since the human body operates symbiotically, many different processes rely on one another to keep the mind, body, and immune system functioning at their best.
A healthy diet is one of the first things one thinks of when it comes to keeping things running properly, but it’s not the only factor. Exercise plays a vital role in overall health, and sometimes, getting enough or even the right type of exercise can make all the difference when it comes to how well you are.
Exercise and chronic illness
Chronic illnesses can be debilitating. Depending on the type, you may experience widespread pain and inflammation, cognitive decline, depression and anxiety, and a weakened immune system. When your physical, mental, and immune health are compromised, it can cause a domino effect. After all, when one system fails, the others are bound to follow suit.
Many chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, heart conditions, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis can all lessen your ability to exercise on a regular basis. When these types of chronic conditions take hold, the pain and physical limitations a person faces can make even a walk around the block difficult. This can be a double-edged sword, because not being able to exercise can also worsen the symptoms of chronic illness.
How exercise affects the body
The body needs to be in motion, at least some of the time. Without regular activity, you can lose muscle mass and physical strength, and experience premature bone density loss. Exercise also has a great impact on cardiovascular health, weight loss or maintenance, and blood sugar management. Without regular physical movement, certain bodily systems can begin to deteriorate.
Blood flow and the transportation of oxygen is a vital component of cardiovascular health. The stronger your heart is, the better your circulation will be, thus the easier it will be for your body to transport oxygen to where it needs to go.
As you get older, the body will also lose bone density and muscle mass naturally because of the aging process, so ensuring a proper regimen of exercise will help decrease overall loss in the long run. Having low bone density can lead to the increased risk of falls or bone breaks, and having a less adequate amount of muscle can lead to widespread weakness.
How exercise affects the mind
Many studies have shown just how important exercise is to cultivating a healthy mind. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders can benefit greatly from a regular exercise routine because it encourages the production of serotonin and dopamine. When these chemicals are produced in greater quantities, it leads to an increase in happiness.
Although exercise can increase levels of physical stress throughout the body, studies have shown that, following an exercise routine, people had lower levels of both cortisol and epinephrine within the body, leading to a calmer mind over time.
How exercise affects the immune system
The immune system is sensitive and relies heavily on other processes. Things such as vitamin and nutrient absorption and cardiovascular and lymphatic health need to be up to par to react appropriately to threats within the body. When the system becomes weak from chronic illness, it doesn’t have the power to fight off infection as well as it once did. So why is exercise important for your immune system?
Exercising regularly can have a great effect on the immune system. Immune cells tend to camp out in tissues and organs, and are often found in small numbers. By participating in physical activity, you can improve the circulation of immune cells, thus making them more readily available to attack an invader on site instead of getting the signal from another part of the body and then moving within the bloodstream to find the infection. The type of immune cells also differ, as exercise can implement highly specialized versions of T-cells that hunt pathogens.
Daily exercises to start with if you suffer from chronic disease
When you suffer from a chronic disease, getting up and getting moving is likely the last thing on your mind. There are simple exercises you can do to help you get back into a solid routine, though, and some exercise is always better than none. If you’re mobile, walking for short periods each day and working up to at least 30 minutes can be a great help in battling chronic disease and the worsening of symptoms. You’ll have to keep your specific condition in mind, but even just a short five-minute walk can be a good first step towards a regular exercise routine.
For illnesses such as diabetes, physical activity can lower blood sugar, so it’s important to ease into it. For those with a chronic disease that causes an inability to walk, light yoga exercises or physical therapy that involves small muscle movements can be a great starting point on the road to being more physically active.
No matter what your ailment, physical activity is always a good thing to incorporate into your lifestyle. Be sure to consult your physician before doing anything more than what is considered mild if you have a pre-existing condition.