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Exercise for Health: Why Exercise is Healthy

Everyone knows that exercise is good for their health. But WHY is it healthy to be active? Why can’t we sit back, put our feet up, eat a mountain of chocolate and watch TV all day and still be in the prime of our health? On that note, why is it necessary for us to eat a certain amount of food, but not too much? Or why do we need around 7-8 hours of sleep to keep our systems functioning? Our ancestors may hold the answer to all these questions…

The bodies that we have inherited from our ancestors have come with some terms and conditions – one of them being “Thou must exercise regularly to maintain good health.” We may not have agreed to this condition, but that’s life.

Our Ancestors Exercised Without Meaning to Exercise 

Before they could reproduce and pass their genes on to the next generation, our ancestors first had to survive day-to-day life. Daily life for our ancestors looked very different to our convenient, modern existence. They didn’t have supermarkets full of food, drinking water easily available in their air-conditioned homes, cars for getting from A to B, or delivery services to do all of their heavy lifting.

To simply meet the basic demands of life – obtaining food, water, shelter, safety – humans had to walk, lift, dig, move, stretch, climb and exert themselves in every which way. And they had to do this day in day out for the entirety of their lives. For us today, the idea of this might already make us tired – but this was simply a fact of life for our ancestors. There was no other way.

Our Ancestors passed on our “activity genes” 

So, over countless generations, our ancestors were active – they exercised without even intending to exercise. Within these active bodies of our ancestors, the organ systems of our body developed, functioned and evolved. The systems (e.g. cardiovascular system, neurological system, respiratory system, etc) and organs (heart, lungs, skin, brain, muscles, etc) of our bodies operated, throughout all human history, in bodies that were active. We have inherited these exact organ systems from our ancestors. It makes sense, then, that these systems and organs function best in active bodies, and they begin to dysfunction in bodies that are sedentary (i.e. not active).

Active bodies = Healthy systems 

This is exactly what we see in reality – those who are active are less likely to suffer from malfunctions of their organs and systems, while sedentary people suffer more frequently from dysfunctions of one organ system or another, often in tandem. Adding to this, those who do suffer from a chronic health condition affecting these systems tend to cope much better when they incorporate regular exercise into their daily life – improving the function and health of their systems.

We are like plants – we thrive in certain conditions 

Consider how different plant species thrive in certain conditions – whether related to temperature, soil content, moisture, sun intensity, etc. Just like these plants, we humans have conditions that must be met if we are to thrive – regular movement and activity being one such condition. Evolution has been the driving force dictating these conditions – the conditions in which our ancestors lived have shaped us. Their traits have been passed on to us through our genes.

Take a lesson from our ancestors 

So, we should take some lessons from our ancestors and how they moved. Move often and every day. Move throughout your lifetime, regardless of your age. Wherever possible, bring this movement into your everyday life – our ancestors didn’t ‘exercise’ because they thought it was good for them – they ‘exercised’ because that was what their life demanded of them.

Walk more often, carry your shopping, tend to your garden – bend, twist, carry, stretch, move – and with time and consistency, in a more active body, your systems will be more at home.

I hope you now have a greater understanding why exercising is healthy, and why a lack of activity contributes to our body’s systems not functioning optimally.

In the next blog in this series, we will investigate how active our ancestors were further and, in doing so, make sense of how much exercise (and what types) we need to thrive.

Also, in a later blog, we will explore how our bodies are adaptable and change in response to activity and the demands that we place on them regularly.

Ok, time to get up and move…!

4 thoughts on “Exercise for Health: Why Exercise is Healthy”

  1. Maeve Brennan.

    Thank you , it all makes very good sense.
    The classes are most enjoyable.
    I’m so glad to be part of the group and I love the social aspect too!

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