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The Importance of Exercise
"You NEED to EXERCISE." You have heard it from your doctor, your teachers, your friends, and your family your whole life. But really, why is it so important to exercise? I mean, wouldn't it be nice to just sit back, watch Netflix, and eat whatever you want, whenever you want? 

You could, but you would find that the side effects of lethargy are detrimental. I discovered that firsthand over the last few years. As a teenager, I was a typical high school student with lots of energy and enthusiasm to play sports and be outside as much as possible. I played tennis, ran, swam, and even did the Insanity workout for a while. Then came college. With the volume of papers, studying, and sitting in classes for 6-8 hours a day (aside from the brief walk to each building), it was easy to put on weight. Before I knew it, I had gained the "Freshman 15." The motivation and energy for exercise were gone, replaced by a focus on making good grades and getting into physical therapy school.

After graduation, I started a new job and got married. While many of my habits and routines changed, I failed to address the exercise issue. As a result, my weight continued to increase. Clothes became tighter, and my reflection in the mirror caused more upset than motivation.

Thankfully, my work as a Physical Therapist Assistant has renewed my interest in exercise, as I am constantly reminded of how important it is not just for healing the body from injury, but in preventing injury as well. Clearly, exercise has several benefits:

Exercise improves muscle tone.

A good exercise program will include a mix of aerobic exercises (walking, cycling, swimming, etc.) and strength training. While aerobic exercise will improve heart, lungs and overall endurance, strength training is a key element in improving muscle tone. Many patients I see on a daily basis have injuries that were due to weakness in muscle groups. Shoulder injuries are most common. Whether rotator cuff or labral tear, the shoulder is a complex joint that requires strengthening exercises emphasizing internal and external rotators, biceps, triceps, deltoids and lats. One patient of mine is a stay-at-home mom who does not and has not ever followed a workout routine. She is constantly lifting her 2-year-old and cleaning house.  One day she was reaching into the back seat of her car, and just like that, she tore her biceps after feeling a "pop" in her shoulder. After an extensive strengthening program 3 times a week in our clinic, her shoulders are strong and fully functioning with ease when she picks up her child. The great thing about strength training is that it does not necessarily have to be a heavy weight-lifting regimen. In fact, just 30-60 minutes of aerobic/strengthening activities can improve and increase one's quality of life. A good example of a "good workout" would be starting with treadmill walking/jogging for 10-15 minutes as a warm-up followed by free weights or machines to target specific body parts, especially those that are weak.

Exercise reduces obesity.

When obesity is reduced, one experiences less aches and pains, while having more stamina and energy. Keeping obesity in check is not a vanity issue; rather, it is serious health concern as obesity can lead to such conditions as Type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even some kinds of cancer. And, alarmingly, nearly 36% of adult Americans are defined as obese (1), which is calculated by a Body Mass Index (BMI) of weight related to height that roughly translates as being more than 20% heavier than the ideal weight for your height (2). While exercise and diet are essential parts of weight management, you do not have to get involved in a high impact regimen to see results. For instance, a 275-pound person can burn 173 calories by walking just 15 minutes a day (3). Based on the assumption that burning 3,500 calories equals a pound of weight loss, this individual could realistically see an 18-pound weight loss over the course of a year without changing any other aspect of his or her diet and exercise routine! (4)

Exercise improves your mental state.  

Regular exercise has been shown to help mental conditions such as anxiety, panic disorder, and even substance dependencies (5). According to WebMD, exercising can also reduce depression as the body releases endorphins, which not only lift your spirits, but also reduce pain perception. In fact, regular exercise even improves your self-esteem (6). I found that to be true firsthand. When I was gaining weight and avoiding exercise, I became depressed and had low self-esteem. Normally an outgoing person who loves to be around other people, I frequently found myself staying at home and avoiding social situations. As I began to exercise more, I felt better about myself and found myself reaching out to others again. The good news is that it did not take much to restore my sense of well-being. I could tell a difference after the first week, with just 20 minutes of exercise three times a week. I worked up to 30 minutes of exercise every other day, and I found that my state of mind was improved in all cases - whether doing simple activities such as walking and cleaning house, or more strenuous activities such as biking and playing tennis.

Exercise helps put your body on a better sleep cycle.  

Countless studies have been done on the effects of exercise on sleep habits, and research shows a 65% or better improvement when exercising at least 150 minutes a week. In addition, the extra sleep helps prevent drowsiness the following day (7).  Of course, the timing for exercise is key, as you should never workout late in the evening because it will increase your energy and keep you awake.

Exercise increases blood flow to extremities, thus helping in circulation issues.

Increased heart rate and breathing, sweating from all areas, and of course the red face with the occasional swelling of hands and feet are all signs of increased circulation and blood flow during exercise. In fact, its effects are felt throughout the entire body. For instance, digestion is stimulated. Sugar stored in muscles is released. Filtering of proteins and water absorption in the kidneys are improved. And, amazingly, the increased circulation caused by exercise even causes brain cells to function better, making you more alert during exercise and giving you better focus afterward! (8)

Clearly, the benefits of exercise far outweigh the effort. If you're having trouble getting started and would like information on a custom exercise program tailored to your health needs, make an appointment with one of our physical therapists today. Elite offers a medically oriented exercise program through monthly memberships as low as $30 a month - a fraction of the cost of a fitness center - in a private setting, and with the added peace-of-mind in knowing your health is monitored by a licensed therapist.

Contact Us

For any questions about therapy and your treatment options, feel free to call ELITE PHYSICAL THERAPY and we will assist you with all your needs from insurance, physician referral, and what therapy can do for you.

You Can Contact us by Clicking HERE

or Call the location nearest to you
Shelbyville  931-684-0027
Franklin      615-224-9810
Spring Hill   931-489-2022



1. Avruskin A. "Physical Therapist's Guide to Obesity." MoveForwardPT. Accessed through January 22, 2016.

2. MedicineNet, Inc. MedTerm's Medical Dictionary. "Definition of Obese." MedicineNet, Inc. website. Accessed January 22, 2016.

3. Stanford University. "Calories Burned Per Minute Walking." Stanford University website. Accessed January 22, 2016.

4. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. National Institutes of Health (NIH). "NIH Body Weight Planner Added to USA SuperTracker Food and Activity Tool." July 20, 2015. NIH website. Accessed January 22, 2016.

5. Zschucke A, Gaudlitz K, Strohle A. "Exercise and Physical Activity in Mental Disorders: Clinical and Experimental Evidence." J Prev Med Public Health. 2013 Jan; 46(Suppl 1): S12 S21. National Center for Biotechnical Information (NCBI) website. Accessed January 22, 2016.

6. Goldberg J (reviewer). "Exercise and Depression." WebMD website. Reviewed February 19, 2014. Accessed January 21, 2016.

7. National Sleep Foundation. "Study: Physical Activity Impacts Overall Quality of Sleep." National Sleep Foundation website. Updated 2016. Accessed January 27, 2016.

8. Klein S. "This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Exercise." Huffpost Healthy Living. Huffington Post website. Updated October 25, 2013. Accessed January 27, 2016.

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