Health benefits of physical exercise and medical checks
We have become accustomed to hearing that the factors that harm a healthy heart are those of Western societies; however, if we eliminate risk behaviours, we would avoid 80% of cardiovascular diseases.
Approximately 30% of the population is sedentary. And this is despite the fact that we know that taking part in a physical exercise on a regular basis provides multiple health benefits. Once we decide to take up a sporting activity, the issue that concerns us is focused on whether the exercise performed is correct in terms of intensity, duration and frequency considering our medical context. And if it meets our needs and objectives, etc. For this, and after a prior medical check, having the support of a personal trainer can be an advantage.
When are benefits obtained?
The benefits regarding the main cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and dyslipidemia), obesity and preventing cardiovascular diseases are indisputable. But, how much sport should we do to reap these benefits? Our medical profile provides the benchmark. It is just as good for your heart to take part in moderate physical activity for 30 minutes five days a week as it is to perform high-intensity physical activity for 20 minutes three days a week. It is even better to perform half an hour of high-intensity physical activity every day.
The medical benefits of taking part in sport are:
- It aids the metabolic control of those figures that are marked with an asterisk in our analysis, including glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides. It is evident that in some cases simply taking part in sport is not enough. However, for those cases of slight increases, it can prevent the start of medical treatment.
- Control of blood pressure.
- Enhancing bone density and slowing joint stiffness.
- Weight and metabolic control.
- Muscle toning
- Reduction of our stress level. It will help us in managing conflicts.
- Improvement in the quality and quantity of sleep.
What do we call physical exercise?
If we stick to the exact definition of physical exercise, we see that not everything is included. In itself, it would be any activity or body movement performed by our locomotor system that involves the participation of muscle fibre (contraction-relaxation). This physical activity entails an energy use that we will obtain from the body’s stores. Our functional physical capacity and tolerance to sport improves when we exercise frequently given that our body adapts to our increased demand for oxygen and our muscle fibres will be conditioned for this task. There’s no need to go to pieces if we cannot do 30 minutes in a row right away. Our perseverance will be compensated in a few weeks when we manage to get through a full fitness class.
What happens in our body when we take part in sport?
At a cardiac level, we will find an increase in cardiac output. The concept of cardiac output refers to the amount of blood expelled from the left ventricle into the bloodstream per minute. Therefore, it will depend on the number of times the heart contracts each minute (heart rate) and the volume ejected with each heartbeat (stroke volume).
During sporting activity there is an increase in demand for oxygen, so the heart will react by increasing your heart rate and stroke volume to cover it. The stroke volume increases proportionally to the exercise intensity until it reaches its maximum at high effort levels. In elite athletes, the capacity for cardiac adaptation goes beyond that as we will find a heart with thickened walls with an increase in coronary capillaries (which increases coronary blood flow) and increased volumes. Thus, in a resting state and to maintain a constant cardiac output, the athlete will have an increased ejection volume and a decreased heart rate. Therefore, when faced with a young person with a low baseline heart rate, the first clinical suspicion will be that this individual performs a moderate-high sporting activity. When performing physical exercise, trained individuals have a moderate heart rate.
How do we know what our state of comfort is during sports?
We need advice. Although the figure of a personal trainer was initially seen as snobbery, at present, most gyms have this expert in their muscle-building room.
- Can you do without their advice? Our advice would be that, if we can have one, we should make the most of it. The personal trainer is a key figure in our sports guideline. This individual will not only set the pace according to our capacity and availability. He or she will also provide us with perseverance, support, understanding, firmness, drive and loyalty. Let’s be honest, how many times would we have stopped going to the gym but we have not done it because we had an appointment with our personal trainer? Is it like that? Well, in that case, do not ignore this figure, as this individual will help us to better carry out the effort to be made.
- How is this relationship established? First of all, the trainer must know about our previous sporting habits, ability to stick with it, time available, type of work, medical profile, a motivation that leads to sports. It is important that, in a moment of weakness/frailty, someone reminds us why we decided to take up the sport again and that psychological drive is what will motivate us to continue another time.
Pre-exercise medical check
- A medical check prior to taking part in exercise will allow us to better know our health status and adapt the activity according to the result and the benefits we want to obtain.
- To prescribe the proper exercise, we take into account the family (pathologies) and personal (injuries, illnesses and medication) background and our habits.
- A “stress test” is recommended for all those who start sports, especially men over 45 and women over 55, because of the increased cardiovascular risk.
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