Health & Wellness

Getting Physical: Exercise One of Many Medicines For Good Health

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 Any General Practitioner worth their weight in salt will tell you that exercise is a vital part of existence, especially if you want to enjoy a decent quality of life and equip your body to fight off countless debilitating ailments. Quiet as it’s kept, diet, exercise and discipline can absolutely give laughter a run for its money in pursuit of the ‘best medicine’ title. 

According to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, “regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. 

“Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores.” 

Movement makes moving easier, less stressful and more efficient; that’s a no-brainer. As the time-tested adage goes, ‘a body in motion, stays in motion’. That is also a well-respected law of physics; a simple postulation that energy never dies, it just transforms. 

Regular exercise relieves stress, improves your mood, helps keep your body weight in check, and, perhaps most vitally, helps prevent, or manage, serious afflictions like stroke, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety, arthritis and many types of cancer. 

Regular exercise also improves balance, builds stamina, helps cognitive function, and can lower the risk of death from all causes. In short, exercise is an amazing tool to help you live a long, healthy and, probably, happy life. 

Of course, exercise often entails exerting one’s body to the point of physical exhaustion, so there is always a risk of doing damage as well. How much exercise is too much? Can physical training actually cause chronic afflictions? 

Hafid James

We asked International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) pro Hafid James, who is a professional bodybuilder, healthy lifestyle coach and personal trainer, what his thoughts on the topic were. Mr James is a bona-fide professional athlete, an individual who trains religiously and pushes his body to often astonishing levels. 

His role as a life coach and personal trainer puts the physical and emotional health of his clients squarely in his hands too, and he is very good at what he does. 

Mr James espouses the virtues of many other crucial components that constitute what modern humanity has come to understand as health. 

“Exercise is important but is only one aspect of improving one’s quality of life. I feel there is too much emphasis on exercise and not enough on other aspects of health. Mainly dietary, but also sleep, stress, mental health, and so forth. 

“I’ve had lifestyle clients that have worked out everyday for months or even years and their results were temporary, or non-existent. I’ve had lifestyle clients that tried to outwork their lifestyle illness – hypertension, imbalanced hormones, diabetics – but it wasn’t until we changed their mindset and approach to health that they were able to decrease, or remove, certain medications. In my opinion, a lot of these situations happen because we focus too much on exercise and not enough on understanding what health really is.” 

Regular exercise, of course, is a key component of a healthy lifestyle; not the whole shebang. Sleep is an oft-neglected component, and the Mayo Clinic staff makes a very important connection between exercise and sleep: “Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster, get better sleep and deepen your sleep.” 

While regular exercise and healthy sleep are good for all human beings, Mr James expounds on the role of exercise in meeting the health needs of individuals. 

“I feel everyone should be exercising regularly, but regular exercise is based on the person, their needs and their goals. I’m a professional bodybuilder so I am in the gym weight training 5 days a week, but I also have lifestyle clients who have lost over 20 pounds and reduced medications, and the only exercise they are focused on is walking and the number of steps a day they are getting in. So, it really just depends on the individual. 

“A good baseline for the average person is about 30 to 40 minutes of exercise a day. Again, depending on who you are this could include walking, swimming, weight training, dancing, running, sports.” 

Of course, exercise is a well-known component of weight management. According to the Mayo Clinic, “exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn.” 

Mr James however, warns against leaning too heavily on exercise when it comes to losing weight. 

“You should not prioritise exercise to lose weight. For my lifestyle clients, and myself, exercise is simply an accelerate. Once you are focused on your health – our definition of health is the continuous process of making one whole and balanced – fat storing hormones should be lowered, fat burning and muscle building hormones should be heightened and hunger is better controlled, so you’ll eat less without having to overthink it. Adding exercise will now amplify your results. 

“When you go into your weight loss journey just thinking about exercise, if you ‘plateau’, most generally think, ‘ok, I have to exercise more or eat less.’ Then, before you know it, you’re doing two hours of cardio a day, in the gym 5 times a week, and eating enough calories to barely get by, feeling awful and not taking in the nutrients your body needs daily. 

“After a while most people will give up. A term commonly used for this is over-training, which simply means whatever workload you are doing is greater than your body’s ability to recover from it. This can be very deleterious on the body and your health. To me, health is about a quality of life. Generally, you shouldn’t feel awful trying to improve your quality of life.” 

Balance is essential when starting an exercise regimen. Over-training can cause physical problems over time. I personally learned all about my sacroiliac joint when I was diagnosed with sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SJD) a few years ago. SJD is a condition that is agitated by climbing stairs, an activity that I engaged in excessively during training some years prior to the diagnosis. The pain was debilitating; but I digress. 

Ultimately, the benefits of regular exercise massively outweigh the pitfalls, as Mr James concludes: 

“Especially when combined with a healthy, holistic lifestyle, having an active lifestyle has a myriad of health benefits. Improving insulin resistance, which can prevent or aid in reversing Type 2 Diabetes, dealing with stress, decreasing your chances of many cardiovascular diseases, preventing or delaying muscular atrophy, reducing the risk of obesity, improving your blood pressure which can prevent or aid in reversing hypertension, improving gut health, on and on and on. 

“Again, I want to stress exercise alone might help with these things, but for maximum, long lasting benefits, please remember exercise should be one factor in your overall holistic approach to health. Without the right ‘balance’ you could do more harm than good. Be happy. Be healthy.” 

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