Written by: Jon Freund ESSA AEP at Hunter Rehabilitation and Health in Newcastle NSW

W: @hunterrehab

Ever heard that weight loss is 80% diet, and 20% exercise? Well I’m going to tell you that is most probably true or at least a decent approximation. You won’t lose weight without addressing diet.  However, do not mistake weight loss alone for health. Many of those who are looking for dietary advice, such as can be found at a high quality on this website, are looking to lose weight. While weight loss and achieving healthy weight can be a good indicator of health, we know that that there is much more to good health than just weight loss.

So why exercise? There’s the obvious benefits such as increased muscle strength, increased aerobic capacity, increased perceived energy levels, and improved sleep. But here’s a few interesting effects of exercise that you may not be aware of:

Exercise increases cognitive function both now and in your future

Research has found that exercise not only increases your cognitive function acutely, but also that exercise in your youth and adulthood actually carries over to reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as you age. It’s also been found that exercise increases cognitive function in those who have already been diagnosed as having dementia.

Exercise decreases the risk of osteoporosis and improves bone density in those with osteoporosis

This one has been known for a long time, however I am still impressed by the number of people we see in clinic with osteoporosis who have either been told not to exercise or that simply aren’t exercising. Exercise increases bone density due to Woolf’s law (Bones adapt to load). They become denser with regular loading. You should exercise appropriately for your bone density though, if you have osteoporosis it would be wise to engage an Exercise Physiologist to help you get started. If you want to know more check out Exercise and Sports Science Australia position statement here

Exercise helps regulate psychological health, in terms of depression and anxiety

Exercise has been repeatedly shown to help with combatting depression and other mental health conditions. However, it should be noted that exercise alone has not been proven to counteract these conditions alone and should be viewed as part of a holistic approach (which may need pharmaceutical intervention). There is some really intriguing evidence around exercise and diet in regards to the human gut microbiome and the role of healthy gut bacteria in mental health, however there is more research needed.

If you want to know more about what exercise can do for you, and your specific health condition or set of challenges, you should engage with an Exercise Physiologist (EP). EP’s are allied health professionals who specialise in exercise prescription for chronic disease and injury and are the experts when it comes to exercise. Ask your GP for a referral if you don’t know where to go!


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