Exercise is vital. Humans are not made to sit around for long periods. It is only in recent centuries that the majority of the population has spent so much time sitting on production lines, at desks or workstations, watching TV or playing computer games.
It is not just the heart, lungs and muscles which benefit from exercise. Exercise is vital for whole body health.
To understand why, we must understand what happens when the blood circulates on the microscopic level; and also the importance of a secondary circulating fluid…
Good circulation is a major key to keeping healthy
Increased circulation is the major benefit of exercise.
What needs circulating in the body?
1. The blood – this is pretty obvious; but good circulation of:
2. The lymph, is also vital for good health.
Yes – the lymph. It is very, very important to keep the lymph fluid circulating well. The lymph is the fluid, other than blood, that is contained within the tissues of the body.
The lymphatic system is a network of blind-ended vessels, and nodes that transport the lymph throughout the body.
The lymph nodes (or lymph glands) are little nodules within the lymph vessels which are ‘factories’ for making white blood cell.
There are particular concentrations of these in your groin, throat, and armpits.
When the lymph nodes swell and become tender, it is usually a bad sign and a good sign! It is a bad sign in that you have an infection, somewhere near the swollen nodes; but a good sign in that the lymph nodes are ‘working overtime’, to produce extra white blood cells to fight off the infection.
It is important to note that the lymph vessels are blind-ended. Lymph has no equivalent of a heart to pump it around the system; it relies on being squeezed by our muscles as we move. It can pass through the vessels in one direction only thanks to the blind ends of the vessels acting as valves. There is only one way to circulate this vital lymph fluid. And that way is – exercise.
What does lymph fluid do?
To help you to appreciate the importance of the lymph fluid to good health, let’s have a look at what it does.
Firstly, lymph completes the circulation of the blood. As the blood vessels get tinier and tinier, components of the blood are squeezed out through tiny gaps. This fluid – called tissue fluid – carries nourishment with it to every cell.
Once the tissue fluid has passed on its nourishment, the lymph vessels help to collect it up again. The fluid now also contains waste products passed into it from the cells, such as dissolved carbon dioxide.
The lymph vessels then direct the tissue fluid back towards the blood circulation system again. The waste products are removed from it, mainly in the kidneys and liver.
Secondly, the lymph fluid has a vital task in transporting white blood cells around the body. White blood cells are the major component of our IMMUNE system. They are rushed immediately to any area of damage or inflammation in the body. They fight off invading ‘pathogens’ (bugs); and repair or recycle damaged body cells coming to the end of their life cycle.
Exercise and lymph circulation
Exercise is vital to good lymph fluid circulation.
The reason for this is that the lymph vessels actually pass between the muscles of the body in many places. It is only by the muscles squeezing together, so acting as a pump, that the lymph fluid can move along the lymph vessels.
So you see just how important it is to get plenty of exercise to make the lymph (or immune) system work. Otherwise waste products build up in the body; and the white blood cells are not circulated to where they are needed.
Exercise and the feelgood factor
So far, I have concentrated on the physical rationale for exercise – how the cells benefit on a microscopic level; and how that improvement translates to better function of the whole body.
But exercise can also make you feel great – through the release of hormones called endorphins. These hormones can definitely make you feel good. Some people report a strong effect which lasts for several hours. Others notice that exercising lifts their spirits in general.
What you can do?
A great way to ensure you are getting the right sort, and the right amount of exercise is to hire a personal exercise trainer. He or she will help you decide which types of exercises are best for you. An exercise program should start slowly and build up to more strenuous activities.
Start a programme of regular exercise and see how great you feel for it. And be happy in the knowledge that you are giving vital support to your blood circulation and your immune system.