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23 Dec

How Your Body Reacts to Exercise

Do you know how your body reacts to exercise and what changes your body goes through physically and mentally? This exercise timeline demonstrates and can guide you through your journey to help you stay motivated when you start a new exercise routine.

Within the first 10 minutes of exercising:

As soon as you start exercising your body will respond by stimulating and inhibiting certain physiological processes that will allow you to exercise more efficiently. For example, your cardio-respiratory system increases its activity above what it would be at rest, whereas the digestive system slows right down.

Within the first ten minutes your heart rate increases meaning there is an increased supply of blood to the brain, making you more alert, endorphins are released to block pain signals and then the body will use different energy systems depending on the type, duration, and intensity of the exercise. Over time, these small physiological changes contribute to long term health and wellbeing.

An hour after you finish exercising:

The body will try to return to its resting state as quickly as possible, the fitter you are the better your body is at doing this.

Generally, everything that was elevated during the exercise will now slow down, whilst everything that was slowed during exercise will speed up, so it’s important to have a healthy meal and re-energise and repair.

The increased blood flow to your brain during exercise will also help you feel more focused afterwards with increased brain function. While the release of endorphins continues post exercise boosting your mood for the day.

A day after exercising:

When you exercise your muscles experience micro-trauma and can result in “delayed-onset muscle soreness” or “DOMS” for short. Experiencing muscle soreness after exercise is normal, especially after trying a new activity or pushing yourself hard, and luckily isn’t something that occurs after every session. However, don’t be put off: this type of muscle pain is a sign of improving fitness. Your muscles are recovering and adapting to exercise, which will help them become stronger in the future.

A common question is whether people should exercise through DOMS? It is recommended that as long as your movement is not compromised then exercising is OK. However, you don’t want to exasperate damage and should aim for your next hard session to be 2 to 3 days later. While doing some movement in the meantime is beneficial to reduce pain and increase mobility, e.g. walking or swimming.

Three days after exercising:

Exercising can result in a prolonged increase in your metabolic rate for up to 72 hours post-exercise. One study has shown that after 45 minutes of vigorous cycling, participants experienced an approximately 40% rise in their metabolic rate for 14 hours post-exercise. The higher metabolic rate will increase the number of calories your body burns to function. This is particularly beneficial if your exercise goals are weight loss and paired with a balanced diet. 

One week after commencing an exercise program:

After a few exercise sessions you start to experience both physiological and mental changes.

Your mitochondria (the mini power plants in your cells that produce energy) start to multiply. This improvement means your body can metabolise more energy and further exercise will begin to feel more comfortable. But mitochondria are not only good for pumping you up with energy. They also protect your cells and make them stronger, which will lead to improving your general health & wellbeing.

People are also likely to experience improvements in their self-confidence, sleep, and reductions in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Two weeks after commencing an exercise program:

Between two and four weeks of regular exercise you will start to see measurable improvements in your strength and fitness. If weight loss is a goal and your exercise program is being complemented by healthy eating, then you may start to see desirable changes in your weight.

Exercising will also start to feel more like a habit, which makes it easier, and your metabolic rate will continue to increase and aid weight loss.

One Month after commencing an exercise program:

The benefits of regular exercise are so profound and often personal that it would be impossible to identify all the effects.

As you become fitter, your daily life will also become easier. Let’s just think about a few basic examples. You’ll be able to climb stairs easier without gasping after floor 2. You’ll easily walk to the store that’s 10 minutes from home. You won’t miss the bus if you have to run to catch it. And you’ll not need your hubby to carry your bags after grocery shopping.

People can expect to see improvements in their physical health, mental health, social health and financial health. Exercise has been shown to improve productivity, reduce sick days and reduce out-of-pocket health care expenses for those already living with chronic conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes.

Life will simply become easier, healthier, and happier.

Six Months after commencing an exercise program:

Your muscles will be visibly bigger and noticeably more efficient. You’ll have a greater endurance and strength and won’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

Thanks to the increased blood flow your heart will have grown, becoming stronger and more efficient. Additionally, your resting heart rate and your blood pressure will decrease, which lowers the risk of a heart attack.

One year after commencing an exercise program:

After a year of regular weight-bearing exercises (e.g. running, jumping rope and stair climbing), bone health and density will have improved, lowering your risk of fracture. Improvements in mental health, including stress relief, anxiety, and depression, are also likely to have continued. Studies associate increases in mental health with all types of exercise, but team sports, cycling, aerobic and gym exercise seem to the most effective. Forty-five minutes three to five times a week was found to have the most significant mental health benefits.

You’re also less likely to be suffering from frequent coughs and colds: studies show that regular exercise is the ultimate immune booster, with moderate aerobic activity more than halving your risk of catching respiratory infections and other common maladies.

Lastly, more of a surprising perk is that you’ll also experience better brain function and sharpen memory. Your new exercising habit will no longer feel like an obligation, and you might even become a little addicted once you feel all the benefits.

Regular exercise has pay-offs every step of the way, so what are you waiting for? A year from now, you’ll be grateful you started today.

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