Science in your tasty cup

Dr. Wendy Sue Universe

Dr. Universe,

WHY and HOW does exercise help our bodies, and what is the best exercise for our bodies?

— Layla, 5,

When we exercise, it helps the body and mind in so many different ways.

One important muscle that benefits from exercise is the heart. Maybe you’ve felt your heart beat harder and faster when you run or climb at the playground.

As the heart gets stronger, it also gets better at pumping blood around the body. That’s really important because your blood is full of oxygen you need to help fuel all your body’s systems.

That’s what I found out from my friend, Chris Connolly, an associate professor at Washington State University who knows a lot about the science of exercise.

“Exercise is good for the systems inside your body. Your heart, your lungs and your digestive system,” Connolly said. “It’s also really good for your mind.”

When you are active, you are improving your memory, creativity and even critical thinking skills.

Many studies have found that children who exercise before a test get better scores. Tests can be stressful, but exercising can help reduce all kinds of nervousness. It’s a great way to help us calm down.

From the heart to the mind, exercise is one way we can care for our bodies. And with so many different kinds of exercises to try, I just had to find out which one was best.

“The best exercise we can do is the one we are going to do consistently the rest of our lives,” Connolly said.

He reminded me humans have different abilities and interests, so how we exercise will look a little different for each person. Find the exercise that’s just right for you and stick with it.

Connolly likes to lift weights and go running. He and his family sometimes build obstacle courses in their yard, too. I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds like a fun way to help stay fit. As for me, I like to explore the outdoors, stretch and climb trees.

Like you, I enjoy trying out new ways of exercising. The question you asked inspired me to try different exercises that had me hopping like a frog, crawling like a crab, waddling like a duck and stretching out my arms and legs like a starfish.

It turns out people need different amounts of exercise as they get older. A lot of children ages 3 to 5 get all the exercise they need just from playing. For those older than 5, an hour of physical activity a day can help strengthen bones and build muscle. Meanwhile, adults need about 150 minutes of exercise a week.

It’s important to stay active throughout our entire life, so it’s good to hear you are learning some new exercises. You’re off to a great start. Next time you do your favorite exercises, think about all the wonderful things you are doing for your body and all the things your body does for you.

Have a science question? Ask Dr. Wendy Sue Universe, WSU’s resident science cat and writer, by email at Dr.Universe@wsu.edu.

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