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Pharmacy Product - Health Topics - Fitness and Exercise

Fitness and Exercise

Physical exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health. It is performed for many different reasons. These include: strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, honing athletic skills, and weight loss or maintenance. Frequent and regular physical exercise boosts the immune system, and helps prevent diseases of affluence such as heart disease, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. It also improves mental health and helps prevent depression. Childhood obesity is a growing global concern and physical exercise may help decrease the effects of childhood obesity in developed countries.

Physical exercise is important for maintaining physical fitness and can contribute positively to maintaining a healthy weight, building and maintaining healthy bone density, muscle strength, and joint mobility, promoting physiological well-being, reducing surgical risks, and strengthening the immune system.

Frequent and regular aerobic exercise has been shown to help prevent or treat serious and life-threatening chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, insomnia, and depression. Strength training appears to have continuous energy-burning effects that persist for about 24 hours after the training, though they do not offer the same cardiovascular benefits as aerobic exercises do.

There is conflicting evidence as to whether vigorous exercise (more than 70% of VO2 Max) is more or less beneficial than moderate exercise (40 to 70% of VO2 Max). Some studies have shown that vigorous exercise executed by healthy individuals can effectively increase opioid peptides (aka endorphins, a naturally occurring opiate that in conjunction with other neurotransmitters is responsible for exercise induced euphoria and has been shown to be addictive), positively influence hormone production (i.e., increase testosterone and growth hormone), benefits that are not as fully realized with moderate exercise.

Exercise has been shown to improve cognitive functioning via improvement of hippocampus-dependent spatial learning, and enhancement of synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis. In addition, physical activity has been shown to be neuroprotective in many neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases. For instance, it reduces the risk of developing dementia. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that frequent exercise may reverse alcohol-induced brain damage.

Physical activity is thought to have other beneficial effects related to cognition as it increases levels of nerve growth factors, which support the survival and growth of a number of neuronal cells.

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise also work to increase the mechanical efficiency of the heart by increasing cardiac volume (aerobic exercise), or myocardial thickness (strength training). Such changes are generally beneficial and healthy if they occur in response to exercise.

Not everyone benefits equally from exercise. There is tremendous variation in individual response to training: where most people will see a moderate increase in endurance from aerobic exercise, some individuals will as much as double their oxygen uptake, while others will never get any benefit at all from the exercise. Similarly, only a minority of people will show significant muscle growth after prolonged weight training, while a larger fraction experience improvements in strength. This genetic variation in improvement from training is one of the key physiological differences between elite athletes and the larger population. Studies have shown that exercising in middle age leads to better physical ability later in life.

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