Biology - Exercise and Health (AQA Syllabus A)

Students of GCSE Science will look at the requirements of staying healthy. This is the second of six quizzes on that topic and it looks in particular at the effect that exercise has on our health.

Eating a balanced diet is an important factor in staying healthy, but so is exercise which has a positive effect on our health in many ways. During exercise your body's metabolic rate increases which means you burn more calories. Exercise also builds muscle mass. The metabolic rate of muscle cells is greater than that of other cells even at rest. Exercise therefore helps your body to control its weight more easily.

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Exercise increases your heart and breathing rate which improves your circulation. The capacity of your blood to carry oxygen and get rid of waste from your cells is also improved. Being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol and decreases the levels of unhealthy triglycerides. This double effect helps to reduce the clogging of your arteries and keeps your blood flowing smoothly, reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and strokes.

Returning blood to the heart from lower parts of the body (such as the feet and legs) is hard work for your circulatory system since this blood has to be pushed upwards against the force of gravity. Exercise gives your circulatory system some help from muscles that surround veins. When you walk or run, muscles in your feet and legs help squeeze the veins, pumping blood upwards. Improving your circulation helps your hands and feet keep warmer in winter.

Regular exercise also makes you stronger and fitter so you will be less tired during the day. Muscles become more toned and, over time, exercise becomes easier. Many vigorous activities help you build strong bones too, such as sports like gymnastics, martial arts and football which involve running and jumping. Exercise doesn't need to be vigorous all of the time! Moderate exercise, like going for a walk or gentle cycling, is also beneficial - and remember to include resistance exercise like push-ups, pull-ups, squats and lunges.

And for the days when you are feeling a bit down in the dumps - do some exercise! It stimulates the release of certain chemicals in the brain that are associated with relaxation and happiness. Exercise improves not only our health, but also our mood!

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  1. Why is over exercising bad for you?
    Heart muscles are tough but over exercising can stretch them. The heart usually recovers given time but can be damaged permanently
  2. Why do your muscles need to be supplied with more blood during exercise?
    During exercise, muscle cell respiration is higher. This means that more oxygen is needed and more waste materials are produced and therefore need removing. Supplying more blood to the muscles meets both needs
  3. Which of the following statements about a balanced diet is not true?
    They are needed only in quite small quantities to keep your body in good working order - though a lack of vitamins and minerals can have serious health consequences
  4. How does exercise help your circulation?
    Increased levels of HDL cholesterol help to keep your arteries un-clogged allowing the blood to flow more smoothly
  5. After exercise, why do your heart rate and breathing rate stay higher than normal?
    Oxygen helps to break down lactic acid in muscle cells. Lactic acid is also carried away to the liver where it can also be broken down
  6. Which of the following statements is true about your metabolic rate after exercise?
    Your body uses energy at a faster rate during exercise so your metabolic rate increases. After exercise it will gradually return to its normal level as you no longer need the higher energy output
  7. What is metabolic rate?
    High metabolic rates use more energy
  8. Which long term health problem is not related to a lack of exercise?
    Beri-beri is a nerve disorder linked to a lack of vitamin B1
  9. What is the chemical that causes cramp?
    During very heavy or prolonged exercise anaerobic respiration takes place, during which glucose is converted to lactic acid
  10. During exercise, breathing rate and heart rate both increase. Why?
    When exercising, your muscles need a lot more oxygen for respiration. By breathing faster and more deeply, your body can get more oxygen to the blood. By pumping faster, your heart can get more blood, and therefore more oxygen, to your muscles

Author: Kev Woodward

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