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The Benefits of Fitness for Physical and Mental Health Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 21st, 2021

Introduction

This paper discusses my experience with exercising and the results I have achieved over the past year. It also studies several evidence-based investigations presenting the benefits of fitness for physical and mental health. The paper discusses how physical activity can reduce proneness to diseases and unhealthy behavior, improve adverse psychological aspects of individuals’ lives, and change the way brain functions. It concentrates on the benefits for both physical and mental health state. The paper also suggests the strategy that can elevate adherence to exercise based on personal experience. The study proves that fitness is crucial for individuals’ functioning and well-being.

Personal Fitness Experience

I have always been interested in fitness but only started to exercise recently. Most of my family members have been doing sports for a long time and have inspired me to follow their example. I believe that my grandparents have excellent health because they have been exercising for the past thirty years. However, for a long time did not understand why fitness could be significant for my body and mental state. To gain knowledge in the field of exercise, I have conducted a study on the topic and implemented its results in my daily practice. Below, I will discuss the data I have discovered, as well as personal experience with fitness.

The primary reason for me to start exercising was being in good physical shape. I used to be overweight because I did not pay enough attention to my nutrition. I consumed a lot of sugar in my food and drinks and enjoyed unhealthy foods, such as potato chips, and pizzas. However, even after I had changed my eating habits, I could not lose weight. I have quickly realized that the reason for it was the lack of physical activity, which motivated me to start exercising. To stay consistent with training and inspired to continue doing fitness, I began to surround myself with people that were interested in sports and physical training. They explained to me what exercises were the best to meet my needs, and helped me develop a training program. I have chosen to include both aerobic and heaving exercises in my fitness routine, as I believe that such a combination of physical activities works best for my body. Later, I have developed a strategy of adherence to fitness that I will discuss below. This strategy along with the findings from the studies has helped me improve my physical health.

However, it is necessary to point out that exercise is highly beneficial to an individual’s psychological state too. Even before I had conducted my research using evidence-based sources, I noticed several shifts in my mental health. Firstly, I do not feel as tired as I had been before. Sometimes intensive training exhausts me, but it only affects my body, while the tiredness I had often experienced in the past was primary emotional. Prior to exercising, I had not been motivated to do my work and complete necessary tasks, even though it was unreasonable to defer them. Moreover, I often felt anxious about my past and my future. Sometimes it was impossible for me to focus on my activities because of rumination. I lacked concentration and often felt angry or upset for no reason. After I had started exercising, I noticed that my anxiety eliminated during the first two weeks of regular training. I have begun to think positively and concentrate on negative thoughts less. Moreover, I do not feel overwhelmed by emotions anymore. I always feel energetic and motivated to do necessary tasks or exercise; I am passionate about much more things that I had been before. I believe that fitness has caused this positive shift in my mental state.

Evidence-Based Benefits of Exercise

Effects on Physical Health and Appearance

Additional research has helped me realize that exercise and fitness are crucial for human’s health. Neufer et al. suggest that evolutionary, physical activities have played a vital role in defining “normal” physiology, while the lack of them is one of the primary risk factors of global mortality (4). Humans had to lead an active life to survive, so it is natural that exercise can make a significant contribution to health. According to Febbraio, even short periods of activity can make a difference, as they can initiate the disruption of metabolic homeostasis (72-73). It means that fitness reduces the risks of developing many diseases including diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular illnesses. For the same reason, exercising has a protective effect against dementia and improves memory (Febbraio 73). Consequently, individuals should start doing sports as early as possible to prevent unlikely health conditions in the future.

It is essential to understand why fitness has such a significant impact on the evolvement of various diseases. According to Cerdá et al., exercise initiates several processes in the brain that include activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, the promotion of an anti-inflammatory state, the release of cytokines, and reinforcement of neuromuscular function. It means that physical activities cause structural and functional changes in the human brain and lead to permanent positive shifts in health state (Mandolesi et al.). The structural changes include brain volumes and measures of white matter integrity, which can improve cognitive functioning (Mandolesi et al.). Functional changes are based, for example, on modification of functional properties of a neural circuit (Mandolesi et al.). As a result, the human brain transforms, providing an opportunity for a shift in an individual’s reaction to stimuli and proneness to illnesses. It is notable that cardiovascular and aerobic fitness can result in better academic achievements of individuals (Berchicci et al. 211). It implies that exercise can be significant for students wanting to improve their performance.

It is clear that for many people the primary benefit of regular physical activities is that their bodies become fit. I have noticed that three fitness sessions per week have made my muscles more defined; my body has grown stronger. I can lift more weight than I had been able to before implementing physical activities into my life. I can also admit that running has become more comfortable for me; I have stopped experiencing the shortage of breathing. It is necessary to mention that I have been able to improve my sleep schedule and its quality because of exercise. I have started to wake up earlier without feeling tired. My sleep has become more profound, and I feel more rested after it. I believe that there is a direct connection between these improvements and my physical activity.

Effects on Mental State

The positive effects of exercise on an individual’s mental health are described in several studies. Knapen et al. suggest that the impact of fitness can be comparable to the results that antidepressants and psychotherapy can provide in treating mild and moderate depression (1490). In case of severe mental health problems, exercise can be considered an additional treatment used along with traditional methods. Researchers note that physical training can have the most significant contribution to the treatment of patients experiencing a combination of physical and mental health problems (Knapen et al. 1490). Physical activity improves individuals’ body image, coping strategies with stress and undesirable circumstances, and general quality of life. Exercise can also help in treating unhealthy and addictive behaviors including smoking, alcohol use, and gambling (Mandolesi et al.). The reason for it is that proneness to these actions is caused by low activity, volume, and oxygenation of the lower prefrontal cortex (Mandolesi et al.). Such behaviors can be successfully eliminated by regular exercise. Due to changes in the lower prefrontal cortex, fitness can also reduce tobacco and cigarette use, which results in the quality of life improvement.

There are several parameters that can be used to evaluate the effects of physical activity. For example, high intensity of exercise improves the speed of information processing while moderate intensity can increase working memory and cognition (Mandolesi et al.). Duration and frequency of physical activity are significant parameters as well. For example, training programs that last longer than one month with sessions exceeding thirty minutes are more likely to eliminate anxiety and depression compared to the shorter ones (Mandolesi et al.). Researchers also report that aerobic exercise can significantly reduce mental health problems with exercise intensity between 30% and 70% of maximal heart rate (Mandolesi et al.). Anaerobic activities that involve abdominal breathing and rhythmic and repetitive movements can affect mood changes as well. Some of them, such as yoga, can be done at home, which makes them available to a large number of individuals.

Improving Adherence to Exercising

I have developed several strategies for improving adherence to exercising based on the reviewed studies. I have used the following recommendations as a motivation to continue doing fitness. For example, Knapen et al. suggest that exercise programs should be created according to individuals’ preferences and expectations considering their emotional and psychological capacities (1494). The goals of fitness should be realistic and relevant to the physical and mental state. I aim to achieve good physical health and want my body to look fit. However, I realize that I cannot do several activities due to my health issues, so I try to keep my objectives realistic. Another strategy I use it scheduling a regular exercising time. For example, I do sports every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Planning helps me feel responsible for improving my health and motivates me not to miss workouts. Lastly, it is crucial to combine exercising with proper nutrition. I always cook for myself and never eat unhealthy foods. It helps me to stay in shape and have a varied and well-balanced diet.

It is necessary to have a clear vision to achieve the best results. When I am exercising, I try to focus on how my body will look like several months later and what aspects of it I want to improve, as well as the process of accomplishing my goal. Concentrating on the sense of control over my muscles also motivates me to continue doing fitness, as the more I exercise, the better my body functions. I also measure my results every week to see how much progress I make and how close I am to my ultimate objective. I believe that it is crucial to document how the body shape changes with time as it proves that exercise can make a significant positive impact on the way individuals look and feel.

Conclusion

Fitness is beneficial not only because it keeps individuals in shape but also because it can have a significant impact on physical and mental health. To me, physical activity has become the routine that I enjoy as I can see the positive changes in the state of my body and mind. I have noticed that I have become more strong and fit. I have also stopped experiencing anxiety, as well as lack of concentration, motivation, and energy. The research I have conducted provides significant insight into the benefits of fitness as well. The findings show that physical activity can prevent the development of many diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, improve memory, and expand functional properties of a neural circuit. The correlation between fitness and good mental state is also crucial. Intense physical activities can substitute antidepressants and psychotherapy, or be a valuable part of a treatment plan. Notably, exercise can reduce unhealthy behaviors and addictions. The more intensive the activities are, the more significant the impact on mental health is. I believe that all individuals should exercise as it is crucial for brain and body functioning and can improve the quality of life significantly.

Works Cited

Berchicci, M., et al. “From Cognitive Motor Preparation to Visual Processing: The Benefits of Childhood Fitness to Brain Health.” Neuroscience, vol. 298, 2015, pp. 211-21.

Cerdá, Begoña, et al. Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 7, 2016, Web.

Febbraio, Mark A. “Exercise Metabolism in 2016: Health Benefits of Exercise—More Than Meets the Eye!” Nature Reviews Endocrinology, vol. 13, no. 2, 2017, pp. 72-74.

Knapen, Jan, et al. “Exercise Therapy Improves Both Mental and Physical Health in Patients With Major Depression.” Disability and Rehabilitation, vol. 37, no.16, 2015, pp. 1490-1495.

Mandolesi, Laura, et al. Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, 2018, Web.

Neufer, P. Darrell, et al. “Understanding the Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Physical Activity-Induced Health Benefits.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 22, no.1, 2015, pp. 4-11.

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