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The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists

Exercise is the BEST Medicine

Exercise…We all know it’s good for us, but unfortunately, we are not great at making time for exercise in our busy modern-day lifestyles. A recent survey showed only 45% of the Irish population meet the international physical activity guidelines. As a result, the incidence of obesity and chronic health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, are on the rise in Ireland.

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Common factors limiting our involvement in exercise are time constraints, financial reasons, fear of injury, worries that it might not be safe for those with disabilities or chronic health conditions or simply just not knowing where to start.

Fortunately, exercise is not limited to the gym or sports field and it does not have to be expensive, time consuming or overly stressful on the body in order to have significant health benefits. And luckily for us, it’s never too late to start.

So how much exercise should we be doing?

The World Health Organization recommendations are as follows:

Children & Adolescents (5-17 years): 60 minutes of moderate – vigorous intensity exercise daily, including muscle strengthening exercise at least 2 days per week.

Adults (18+): At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise weekly (e.g. 30 minutes, 5 days per week) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly. Exercise should also aim to include muscle strengthening activates on two or more days per week.

Examples of moderate / vigorous intensity exercise include a brisk walk, jog, cycle, swim or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session with strengthening activities including body weight exercise or resistance training with resistance bands or weights. While these are the recommended guidelines, it is a good idea to gradually increase physical active towards achieving this target as this will reduce the risk of injury.

Just because we know how much physical activity we should be aiming for, doesn’t always mean it is easy to reach or stick too. So, here are the key motivators, the health benefits:

Prevention and Management of Chronic Disease and Inflammation

Exercising at the above recommended levels has been shown to reduce all the risk factors for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and certain types of cancers. This is thanks to the positive effects of regular physical activity such as strengthened heart muscles, reduced blood pressure and blood sugar levels, higher levels of HDL cholesterol (the good ones) and a reduction in body fat by improving the body’s ability to burn calories.

In certain cases, regular exercise has also been shown to reduce the reliance on medication in those who have already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. A reduction in adipose tissues (body fat) has also been linked with a reduction in chronic inflammation, further reducing the risk of systemic inflammatory conditions and improving the body’s overall immune response.

Management of Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Any physical activity which increases heart rate will stimulate the production of serotonin and endorphins, the body’s “feel good” chemicals. Evidence suggests adults participating in regular exercise see a 20-30% reduction in the risk depression and it has also been proven to help with the management of stress and anxiety, something we could all use in these challenging times.

Exercise can also have huge social benefits, increasing your interactions with others (even through Zoom) can combat issues such as isolation and loneliness.

Staying Stronger for Longer

Regular physical activity, especially when including strength training has been shown to increase muscle strength and size at all ages. It will also help to maintain bone density, balance and overall function. As a result, it can reduce to risk of osteoporosis, falls and fractures which can all be significant causes of reduced independence and mortality in the aging population. Maintaining a level of physical activity as we age can also reduce the risk chronic joint pain, improve memory and enhance overall quality of life.

Improved Sleep

Sleep is a vital factor for our physical recovery and mental well-being. A study in 2011 found that adults who exercised to the recommended 150 minutes per week reported a 65% improvement in quality of sleep. Moderate intensity exercise helps to increase the amount of deep sleep we get each night which is when our body is able to recover most effectively. Improved sleep has also been shown to have a significant influence on stress and anxiety.

Here you have it, some excellent reasons to make time for yourself and your health. So, keep it simple, consistent and fun, and enjoy the benefits of feeling fit and healthy.

If you are not sure where to start, whether or not it is safe to start or if you have aches and pain which are preventing you from exercising, please get it touch with us at Galway Bay Physio on 091 569 706 or visit us at to book an appointment, and we will be able to help get you moving in the right direction.

David Sheehan
Chartered Physiotherapist

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