Exercise. Some of us hate it. Some love it. Some of us look forward to workouts, knowing the pleasant sensations of overall wellness they will elicit. For others, regular exercise is another chore to tick off the list of daily duties, before flopping back down on the couch. There’s one thing we can all agree on, though: We all need regular exercise to maintain optimal fitness and health.
Move It or Lose It
There’s simply no getting around it. At any age, no matter your ethnicity, gender, background or anything else—we all need near constant activity to stay fit and healthy. Fit generally means our muscles are powerful, our bones strong and resilient, our lungs capable of keeping up with increased demands for oxygen, and our joints are capable of comfortably sustaining hours of heavy use. When we are fit, we usually feel good about ourselves. Being fit probably means you’re maintaining a healthy body weight. You may even see some muscle definition in the appropriate places. You can see and feel the effects of fitness.
The vibrant health that springs from regular exercise goes even further, though. Many of the exercise-related changes wrought in the body occur largely behind the scenes. You can’t see your blood sugar levels smoothing out, for example, nor can you see your mitochondria—the cellular powerhouses lurking within virtually every cell—working at peak efficiency. You can’t see new muscle cells forming, and older ones repairing damage only to become stronger and more efficient.
You won’t see your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, dropping, either, nor will you necessarily perceive the rise in levels of feel-good hormones, such as endorphins, or other chemicals associated with a buoyant mood. At least not initially. But these changes will occur, nevertheless. And they’ll have positive effects on your body. You may not immediately realize that your blood pressure is normalizing, or that your blood is flowing more freely, as blood lipid levels (cholesterol, triglycerides) begin to fall. You’re unlikely to realize that your brain is receiving peak amounts of oxygen, or that a stew of hormones, proteins, and other chemicals is rushing through your blood vessels, boosting immunity and shoring up your mood.
You’re certainly not likely to perceive the imperceptibly small swirls and eddies of turbulence in your blood vessels, as blood cells rush to and fro doing their work under elevated demand for fresh nutrients and oxygen. Nevertheless, this micro-turbulence, created only when the heart is pumping at its hardest, is believed to play a biomechanical role in promoting the health of the blood vessel linings, by exerting shear forces that evidently promote vessel wall repair. This lining, called the endothelium, is extremely important for longterm cardiovascular health. It’s where atherosclerosis begins, often at an early age. Unhealthy endothelial tissue is a silent hallmark of slowly developing cardiovascular disease. Exercise helps prevent this damage.
Kettlebells as Workout Equipement
Kettlebells are devices used to perform resistance training. Generally, there are two basic forms of exercise: aerobic and resistance. Aerobic involves virtually anything that gets you moving, making your heart pump faster, and your breathing accelerate. Think walking, running, swimming, playing tennis, dancing, etc. Resistance training can often be performed while standing still. At its most basic, it involves pushing or pulling against resistance. It’s often thought of as simply lifting weights, although the same effect can be achieved by pulling against elastic bands.
To be clear, research has consistently shown that both forms of exercise are important for optimal fitness. Staying active and moving are crucial. Sitting itself has been identified recently as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But moving is not enough. We also need strong muscles that have been tempered through consistent challenge. Challenge them with kettlebells; usually made from heavy iron, these bowling ball-shaped weights feature convenient handles on top to facilitate lifting.
Any number of workouts can be devised that combine these handy weights with various activities, designed to isolate and focus on a given muscle group. As with most resistance training options, repetition is the key. Many kettlebell fans first encounter these tools at exercise classes, where an instructor can supervise their appropriate and safe use.
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