Sports science has proven the importance of training to improve athletic performance. Study after study has been able to show the need for strength, speed, endurance, agility training to better heighten the level of athleticism on display throughout the world. Yet, realistically, in the nation, less than 2% of high school athletes go on to play Division I in college. Of those, only 2% continue playing sport at a professional level. This leaves over 95% of the population to be considered NARPs (non-athletic regular person/people) after the age of 23. What do those people do to work out if it's not for sports performance? More importantly, why do the rest of us need to work out? Here are five reasons other than performance to work out.
In the state of society today, we understand why one would desire to have the healthiest immunity system they could. Studies have shown that regular moderate exercise, at least 150 minutes a week, can help improve the immune system. This works in two ways: 1) the body will have a higher resistance to illness and airborne contaminants by maintaining adequate levels of antibodies, 2) the lungs and heart will be strong enough to fight and shorten recovery time if an illness wins the internal battle.
The brain regulates several hormones and chemicals that are responsible for mood and energy levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is responsible for stress. It is a natural alarm system to control motivation and fear. The problem is when cortisol levels are high it leads to a fight or flight reaction in a crisis, even if there is no pertinent crisis also known as stress. Exercise can keep maintenance on cortisol to control the secretion of hormones. Just as cortisol is given an inhibitory stimulus, endorphins are given a stimulatory stimulus. Endorphins are released and diminish the perception of pain in the body. All of these chemical and hormonal reactions in the body help reduce stress and promote mental health.
Now, all of these pieces are intertwined. If you are not sick, feel good, and are less stressed then you will not only get better quality but also more time asleep at night. Not to mention exercise will use energy systems and promote falling asleep faster. Also, it works in reverse; if you can get better sleep because you worked out, then the body will be able to regulate its systems promoting a strong immune system and regulation of hormones. The CDC claims 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is a minimum for adults. The National Sleep Foundation also records those who obtain this amount of exercise experience 65% better sleep quality. It is all intertwined.
Exercise boost both short and long- term cognitive function. Higher levels of fitness have been associated with more effective brain function, memory, problem-solving skills, psychomotor speed, and focus. Some studies have found that completing a pre-test workout session can boost test scores.
Connect with community
Walking into a gym may seem like just a bunch of bodies trying to get big. However, when you think about it you are in a room full of individuals with one bound to have the same goal as you. Whether that is to lose weight, increase performance, or any of the previously mentioned benefits of daily exercise at least one person is working to achieve the same thing you are. Find those people, connect, crush a workout, and challenge one another. A like-minded community will make all the difference in finding the motivation to come to the gym as well as create a community that will translate outside of those four walls.
Working out and exercising, is used as a tool for athletes to increase their sports performance. However, daily exercise is useful for more than just athletic performance enhancement. Whether that be for a stronger immune system, a source of stress relief, better and longer time spent asleep, increasing brain function, or to find a like-minded community to belong to, there is a reason you can find to work out. That being said, find your reason, find your people, find your gym and start working.
Estimated probability of competing in college athletics. (2020, April 16). NCAA.org - The Official Site of the NCAA. https://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/estimated-probability-competing-college-athletics
Move more; Sit less. (2020, October 7). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
Zhu, W. (2020). Should, and how can, exercise be done during a coronavirus outbreak? An interview with Dr. Jeffrey A. Woods. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 9(2), 105-107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2020.01.005