The cheapest form of medicine... Exercise!

The cheapest form of medicine... Exercise!

Published: August 07, 2014 Last Updated: January 21, 2024

Are you one of those people who bound out of bed in the morning to work out? If you haven’t yet mastered integrating exercise into your daily routine then you could be missing out on one of the cheapest and easiest ways of assisting your body to function optimally, next to air and water. Endless scientific research has confirmed what our innate instinct has known all along, exercise plays a key role in reducing diet and lifestyle-related disease, and not just due to the effects that exercise has on weight.

Exercise - the most natural medicine

Exercise starts a chain reaction of chemical, physiological and metabolic processes in the body, including the increased expression of antioxidant enzymes responsible for oxidative stress and inflammation, enhanced clearance of glucose and greater cell signalling improving the quality of the mitochondria of cells, resulting in more energy.

For many, exercise is perceived as a lot of effort for little gain, especially because results aren't always tangible or instantaneous. There is often much focus on weight loss, rather than being centred on the positive health effects Movement has become a chore, rather than a necessary part of life, such as in the Paleolithic times. Barriers to activity can include difficulty in finding the time, a lack of motivation, and even a poor understanding of which type of exercise is best.

HIIT for health

New research is emerging that High-Intensity Interval Training is becoming a popular form of exercise resulting in health benefits but saving time. A common technique for a HIIT workout could involve a warm-up activity for a few minutes, followed by a 2:1 ratio of workout to recovery. For instance, 60 seconds of sprinting to increase the heart rate, followed by 30 seconds of walking for recovery. This can be repeated anywhere between 5 and 10 times, depending on fitness levels.

The benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training can be ideal for a gradual approach to exercise. Accumulating research is showing benefits to the body such as increased weight loss (particularly with those who have followed a weight-loss program and have reached a plateau), improved metabolic and cardiovascular health, improved markers for insulin resistance as well as improved levels of energy and state of mind.

Exercise tips

Tips for including exercise into everyday life:

  • Set realistic goals and record progress – there are many free apps for this;
  • Plan – put it in your diary, tell your family and friends so that they know you are committed to your scheduled time with exercise;
  • Don’t fret if you fall off the wagon... Just pick it back up again the next day!
  • Be prepared – lay your exercise gear out the night before so that there are no excuses;
  • Find a buddy – it has been shown that those who exercise with a friend, trainer or in a group are more likely to stick to their goals because they are more accountable;
  • Mix it up! Try different ways of exercise or unconventional forms such as dancing or surfing;
  • Include incidental exercise as much as possible throughout your day – take the stairs, cycle to work, purposely park a few streets away and walk to where you are headed;
  • Invest in workout clothes that make you feel great and are both practical and comfortable;
  • Focus on health, strength and your energy and state of mind instead of just the number on the scales!

The trick is not to over-complicate it... If you can’t match the ideal of what you "should" do, then just start where you can and gradually build – walk around the block, stretch while watching TV, and add movement to your day wherever possible.

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