Sport for our physical and emotional health
The joy of moving is natural in childhood, but in time we often find difficult to squeeze sport into our daily activities. But sport has many advantages like improving stamina and fitness, raising self-confidence or managing stress.
How physical activity affects stress?
The first thing to know, is that exercising muscles will cause higher oxygen intake, and this will lead to a side effect called oxidative stress, which forms free radicals, and produces acidity and hormones. The question naturally arise, that why it is healthy than to do physical activities if our body reacts like this? Fortunately our body can help itself. During exercise a defence mechanism is switched on, that defeats the harmful side effects, like stress caused by physical activities. Suresh Rattan, gerontologist professor of the University of Aarhus in Denmark concluded in his research, that this defensive effect is based on the production of certain proteins: these serve in our body as a shield against stress, and thus improving health.
For early, stone age humans this defence mechanism was probably switched on continuously. However, today due to their work many people are sitting all day, hardly moving at all, so this prehistoric defence mechanism is in a switched off state. In the meantime stress, this lifestyle disease of the modern age has a strong presence. Although stress itself is not causing death directly, but the body, going from one stress peak to another stress peak, continuously kept in an excited state from early morning to late night, is more prone to illness.
While in the stone age people were subjected to stress just for a short time – let’s say they get scared by a tiger – today it can last all day. If the energy is not released – as in the case of stone age people while fighting or running away – but stuck in the body, then the biochemical cycle alarms the body but won’t get a response. The consequence of this can be uncontrollable blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, blood clotting disorders, decaying sexual life and weakened immune system. Furthermore this can have an effect on the brain: stress kills the nerve cells, and the brain starts to shrink.
The widespread effects of stress can be measured, and can be described in units (allostatic load). Poor, undereducated people can handle more stress, than rich and highly educated ones. Sleeping processes and inactivity can produce a high average of allostatic load. If stress – as usual – can not be avoided the best possible solution against it is physical activity. Those rodents, which can run in a squirrel cage are less prone to illness than the ones which are living in stress and don’t have the chance to move properly. Metaphorically this means for people that if moving is our congenital answer to threats and strains, than physical activity is a natural tool to prevent the development of stress.
Regular physical activity is therefore reduces the physical strains caused by stress, and thus makes life longer. And this is true for both fat and slim people.
In 2012, Médiaunió Foundation launched a campaign called “Let’s do sport 3 times for 1 hour every week”, to help to integrate sport in the daily lives of interested people.