Our bodies are incredible, they can travel long distances and barely tire, they can take huge amounts of abuse in the form of poor diets and unhealthy habits and continue to support us on our journey through life. We rely on our internal systems to keep us functioning, from breathing to replenish oxygen that supplies our muscles and brain to our digestive system that processes all the good nutrients from our meals to keep us energized and moving.
When you exercise, it isn’t just your muscles that feel the strain, but your entire body is affected in all different ways and it is important to understand how your body is influenced so you can properly rest and recover. Without enough resting and recovery time, you can push your body beyond its comfortable limit and cause unrecoverable damage or injury that takes a long time to heal.
Whether you exercise in a dedicated centre such as a gym or fitness center or have built your own personal gym, keeping this information in mind can ensure you don’t overstrain yourself. Fitness routines don’t have to take place with a personal trainer to be safe. You can build your routine around the equipment you have available, such as a home treadmill, a refurbished exercise bike or even a set of weights.
Our Muscles During Exercise
Starting at the basics, our muscles are what allows us to move around and function. When we exercise, our muscles use up a sugar known as glucose which is stored in our body and provides the energy to make our muscles work. Alongside glucose, our muscles also make use of a chemical known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Unfortunately, our bodies can’t store a lot of either glucose and ATP and quickly uses them up during your exercise. Once used up, the body requires a greater intake of oxygen to create more ATP, causing you to breathe heavier.
It’s important not to hold your breath while exercising but to instead try to focus on keeping a steady breathing cycle, taking deep breathes to replenish the oxygen in your body. Without a decent supply of oxygen, your body will instead start to produce lactic acid, while this is not harmful, it can create a painful, burning sensation in your muscles. This sensation is your body telling you to stop exercising and shouldn’t be ignored, instead take a moment to rest and relax.
Soreness in muscles after exercising is caused by small tears that occur in the tissue. These small tears will heal, building up your muscle over a few days as they recover but should you go overboard, it can lead to ruptures and strains.
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Your Brain on Exercise
When you exercise, some incredible things happen in your brain. First, you experience an increased flow of blood to your brain which starts to feel more awake and functional. This feeling continues throughout your exercise and after a while, this triggers a surge of chemicals including endorphins – or the ‘happy chemicals’. This leads to a feeling commonly known as ‘runner’s high’ and can make us feel energized and overjoyed.
The extra flow of blood and oxygen to your brain greatly benefits an area known as the ‘Hippocampus’. This part of the brain has a large part to play in our ability to learn and memorize facts and skills and is one of the only parts of our brain able to create new brain cells. When you exercise, the increased oxygen to the brain facilitates the creation of new brain cells that continue to survive even when your exercise has completed.
Another area of your brain that is affected by exercise is the Hypothalamus – the ‘temperature center’ of the brain. While you exercise, your body heats up and this area of the brain sends out signals that make you sweat in order to cool you down and prevent overheating.
Exercise can do many good things for our wellbeing, make us feel happier, keep us fit and improve our ability to sleep soundly. If you are someone that tries to avoid exercise, you’d benefit from adding even just two 30-minute walks around the block each week, anything that can help your lungs and heart pumping. Our body works hard to keep us going, isn’t it only right we reward it the right way? Rather than reaching for the snack cupboard, lace up your running shoes and get your run on!