The Benefits of Exercise
Written for the KidsKnowIt Network by: Meredith Tennant
You have probably often heard that exercise is good for you, but do you know the reasons why?
You may also have heard people talking about stress and how too much stress is bad for you. What you may not know is that some stress is actually healthy.
When we exercise, whatever it is, running, jumping, swimming, riding bicycles, or playing ball, we put our bones, muscles, heart and lungs under pressure. We ask them to work hard. Another way of saying that is to say that we put stress on them. In response, they grow stronger. It’s as though all those organs and structures in our bodies are thinking, “Wow! If that’s the sort of work we’re going to be asked to do, we better be ready”.
Have you noticed how it gets easier to run for longer, or faster, the more you run? Or how you can bike up that steep hill more easily each time? After each time you exercise, your lungs will have expanded to make room for the extra oxygen-containing air that your cells need; your muscles will have grown more fibers so they get tired less easily; your heart (which is a muscle) will have grown stronger in the same way, able to pump blood around your body more efficiently, and your bones will have been busy reinforcing themselves with better, stronger bone cells.
Another wonderful result of exercising is that we feel better. Exercise causes our brains and spinal cords to produce chemicals called adrenaline, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. These combine to make us feel great, making us feel better about ourselves, making us feel positive, energetic, and less anxious. In fact, endorphins are known as the body’s natural painkillers, or the feel-good factors. We do, though, need to exercise for 30 minutes before these chemicals kick in and we get that great feeling, so make the most of recess!
One of the most exciting results of exercising (as if getting healthier and feeling wonderful weren’t enough!) is that it actually makes you smarter.
It’s true! Although scientists aren’t yet sure of the exact process, they do know that exercising causes your brain, in particular the part of the hippocampus associated with learning and memory, to repair injured neurons and make new ones. Neurons are nerve pathways, and the more of those you have in your brain, the more efficiently your brain can work, transmitting information, storing it in memory cells, and easily retrieving it.
And at the end of the day, having run around,biked, swam or played ball will help you to fall asleep more easily and to sleep deeply, which is when your body repairs itself. That good sleep will help you feel better the next day, and if you then exercise again your body will get stronger and healthier, you will feel great and sleep well, which will help you feel better and more energetic the day after that . . . it’s a healthy, happy cycle.
So, if you want to be smarter, fitter and happier, you now know what to do — Get up and get moving!
How many different ways can you exercise?