No pain, no gain. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. These may be old cliches, but when it comes to exercise, there is truth to both of them. While experts would urge you to stop working out if you feel pain, nausea, or light-headed, your muscles and cardiovascular system need to be put under some level of stress in order to get stronger.
The Benefits of an Intense Workout
If you are out of shape or have health challenges, you might feel like resigning yourself to very modest activity — or none at all. Recent studies, however, show that high-intensity workouts may have even more benefits than regular, moderate aerobic activity — even for people with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or pulmonary disease.
Studies suggest that a shorter, more intense workout is safe for most people, but offers more disease-preventing or disease-reversing benefits. One form of short, high-intensity workout is referred to as high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. This consists of short bursts of very intense effort, alternated with periods of rest. This type of workout is gaining in popularity as more and more people discover the benefits to their bodies and their schedules. These workouts can be done with body weight exercises, outdoors, or on equipment like a treadmill.
Work = Strength
Robust physical exercise, done regularly, makes your heart, lungs, and muscles stronger. When your muscles endure that effort, their natural response is tiny “tears.” While this might not sound like a good thing on the surface, your body goes to work on repairing those overloaded muscles, and that’s what builds them and makes them stronger.
Let’s not forget; your heart is a muscle. To strengthen it, you must be willing to make it work harder. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (for moderately intense levels) on most days of the week. Those with active lifestyles have a 45% lower risk of heart disease. So you can see, making your heart work — with a workout — makes it stronger. The stress of regular exercise also keeps arteries healthy and offers a 35% lower risk of high blood pressure.
Like your biceps or abdominal muscles, if your heart and lungs are allowed to take it easy all the time, they can’t build strength. When you put some stress on your lungs with exercise, you breathe harder and take in more oxygen. This provides energy, reduces carbon dioxide in the body, and can increase your lung capacity.
Speaking of Stress…
Exercise has been shown to reduce the amount of mental and emotional stress in those who do it regularly. If your brain is damaged by stressful events, exercise can actually revers that damage. Stressed-out people can become more forgetful, for example. Regular exericse can help reverse that. And people report better moods, memory, and energy after a workout, along with lower tension and anxiety.
If you want to live longer and healthier, it’s important to allow your body to experience the temporary stress of regular exercise. Your efforts will be rewarded with stronger muscles, a more powerful heart and lungs, and a clearer mind.