How does fitness help your health

Heart and metabolism revving

Regular exercise has positive effects on body and soul, as research has shown. Obese people, for example, can achieve a lot with exercise. Physical activity revs up the metabolism and the body uses more carbohydrates and fats. Those who do sport regularly increase their metabolic activity permanently - not just for the duration of the sporting activity. Endurance sports such as running, cycling, swimming or Nordic walking are best suited. And with it the pounds drop off too.

Overall, endurance training improves cardiovascular performance. The body adapts to the new situation by increasing blood volume. The flow properties of the blood improve and the blood can flow more easily through the veins. The heart muscle becomes stronger and the vessels multiply and enlarge. This means that larger amounts of oxygen-rich blood are transported and the organs are better supplied with oxygen and nutrients.


Strong muscles

Athletes also strengthen their muscles. It depends on the sport, how high the degree of muscle strengthening is and which muscle groups are strengthened. Swimming, for example, strengthens the arm, shoulder and back muscles, while Nordic walking primarily strengthens the legs. Basically, more muscle mass also consumes more energy, and in return the body breaks down larger amounts of the carbohydrates and fats ingested with food instead of storing them as fat tissue.

Strong muscles protect the joints and spine from improper strain. Good examples are shoulders and knees: You benefit from strong muscles because they get their stability mainly from the surrounding muscles. The bony joint structures alone would be overwhelmed with this task.

The stronger the muscles, the less the body has to exert itself when strength is required in everyday life, for example when lifting heavy objects. Sufficient muscular performance and mobility allow older people in particular to live independently longer and protect them from accidents and falls.


Healthy vessels

Endurance sports such as cycling or running can prevent hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis). It not only affects older people, young people are also showing the first signs. Atherosclerosis is a gradual process that progresses over decades and can eventually lead to a stroke or heart attack.

There are certain risk factors that promote the development of coronary artery disease (a form of arteriosclerosis), for example: obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, stress, excessive cigarette consumption, high cholesterol levels (LDL decreases, HDL increases) or diabetes (diabetes mellitus) ). Exercise can reduce all of these risk factors except for nicotine consumption. Sport therefore has a positive effect on the blood vessels.

Movement in the legs promotes blood vessel performance in another way. The veins carry the blood from the legs back towards the heart. There are large muscle groups around the leg veins, which, with sufficient activity, massage the veins from the outside and pump the blood upwards. As a result, the muscles also promote venous blood circulation. Doctors speak of a well-functioning “muscle pump” in physically active people. This also reduces the risk of a blood clot (thrombus) forming in the veins.


Stable bones

Strength training not only strengthens the muscles, ligaments, joints and bones also benefit. Proper training, for example, can protect against osteoporosis, but it also helps people who are already suffering from bone loss. The principle works like this: The muscles are attached to the bones by tendons. When the muscle contracts, the bone where the tendon is attached becomes irritated. Due to the increased load, the bone is strengthened there and the bone density increases.


Happiness hormones for a kick

Sport does not only have a preventive effect, it also has general positive effects: It increases well-being, helps to reduce everyday stress and leads to greater balance. In intensive endurance sports, the body releases happiness hormones (endorphins), which have a direct, positive effect on the psyche. Also not to be underestimated are the pleasant feeling of tiredness after a strenuous mountain hike or the excitement about having learned a new sport.

Regardless of the fact that a person who is physically active does something for his health, strengthens the immune system and is less likely to be ill: He is also more productive at work. People who balance their sedentary everyday life with sport therefore not only feel fitter and more balanced, they also effectively prevent various diseases.


The optimal measure

Experts have determined how much exercise is optimal for our body: It is ideal if we consume around 2000 calories a week through targeted physical activity. Endurance sports such as running, walking, inline skating or cycling are particularly suitable. Depending on the type of sport and exercise intensity, you can meet your “target” in three to five hours per week.

For the first time in sports, that seems like a lot. So take it easy, train shorter units at the beginning, which you then gradually expand. Above all, those who have only moved very little for years have to slowly get going. Do not overwhelm yourself - overexertion not only puts a lot of strain on the body, it also makes you lose desire quickly. The rule of thumb for endurance sports is that you can talk to someone while you exercise without gasping. But you should still work up a little sweat.

To really benefit, workouts should last at least 30 minutes. You can also top up your exercise account through additional exercise in everyday life - leave the escalators and lifts behind and climb stairs instead. Run small errands on foot. Cycle to the office and look forward to being there faster than if you were stuck in a traffic jam.


Check-up for beginners

Anyone who has not exercised for a long time, is overweight or has health problems should have a doctor examined before starting training. He will advise and inform you in detail which type of exercise is healthy and which sport suits you best. A so-called sports medicine check-up is an additional option, but this is not part of the regular insurance services and the costs of which are usually borne by the insured person. As part of a sports medicine check-up, the level of physical fitness is determined and an individual training program is put together that does not pose any health risk. Existing diseases and therapies are recorded in the medical history. A resting ECG and a stress ECG or a combined stress test (ergometry), a blood pressure measurement, blood chemistry analyzes and a pulmonary function test are carried out: The training status and the quality of the previous training are examined carefully and a training plan is created. The training program contains the personal training heart rate, information on the individually appropriate training scope for the beginning of the training and the systematic increases in the training scope until the personal training goal is achieved. This can be a multi-month or even multi-year program.

As part of the check-up, possible diseases can also be identified and combated at an early stage. The earlier some diseases are discovered, the better they can be treated. And exercise is - just like medication or a healthy diet - a recognized component of therapy.

Basically: Anyone can do sports. Even in old age or with illness, exercise can significantly improve quality of life and health. You can read more about this in the chapter "Movement as Treatment".

Date: January 20, 2011