Exercise is important for staying healthy. It keeps muscles strong, burns calories, maintains flexibility, increases aerobic capacity and offers a pleasurable endorphin release. An added benefit, and one not often discussed, is that exercise actually helps your body to detoxify itself.
What is Detoxification?
Detoxification is the cleansing of the internal organs of the body from environmental pollutants, food waste, poisons, harmful bacteria and other substances such as alcohol, medications and parasites. The human body is designed to get rid of waste. The organs of detoxification include the colon, liver, lungs, kidneys, skin and lymph glands.
How Detoxification Happens
Your body is always detoxifying itself.The most obvious way is through eliminating waste via urinating or having a bowel movement. This is one way your digestive system gets rid of unneeded toxic waste. This happens regularly for almost everyone, and the cleansing is done by the colon and kidneys.
The lungs filter out toxins and debris in the air we breathe before the oxygen is absorbed by the blood and taken to the muscles of the body. The skin is our largest organ. Waste is eliminated by the skin through sweating. Often when the other detoxifying organs are compromised, toxins will begin to come through the skin, showing up as acne, rashes, blemishes, pimples or sores. The liver is a complex organ that helps the body to either use or get rid of metabolic waste as well as environmental toxins and substances.
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Lymph is a clear fluid that flows through the body containing white blood cells. The lymph system is made up of nodes, which act as filters, and capillaries. The lymph collects unwanted "debris" in the body such as fats, bacteria and other harmful materials and filters them through the lymph nodes. The lymph system is similar to the circulatory system except there is no "pump" to help the lymph circulate through the body. The lymph system relies solely on the body's movements for circulation.
Why Exercise is Good For Detoxification
Exercise is an important part of any detoxification program. Moving the body creates the conditions for the body to breathe, stretch, circulate and sweat. It is a good idea to drink lots of water during a detox period, so the skin can sweat and the kidneys can effectively filter toxins. By increasing your water intake, as well as increasing your heart and breathing rate, your body can more effectively flush out unwanted toxins, fats and waste.
How Exercise Detoxifies the Body
Exercise helps the body's organs of elimination to function optimally simply by getting them going. Moving the body helps to circulate both blood and lymph. The more they circulate, the more the liver and lymph nodes can do the job of cleansing and purifying the blood and lymph.
The digestive system works well and more regularly with consistent exercise. When you exercise you breathe deeply with your lungs. The oxygen that you breathe in travels though the blood to the brain and muscles. The lungs increase their capacity as the heart muscle grows stronger, and they produce and give off carbon dioxide as a waste product of aerobic exercise. The skin is cleansed from the inside out by the cleansing process of perspiration. Many toxins can be eliminated through the skin by sweating.
Another way exercise helps to detoxify the body is by reducing the body's subcutaneous fatty tissue. Toxins get stored in the fatty tissue of the body. Therefore, when fatty tissue is reduced as a result of aerobic exercise, the toxins are released and can be eliminated through the cleansing organs.
Types of Exercise for Detox
Gentle, low-intensity aerobic exercise is good for detox since it gets the body moving, heart pumping and the lungs breathing deeply but within the fat-burning zone. Running, walking, bicycling, dancing and swimming are examples of aerobic exercise. Try to exercise at a pace at which you can breathe evenly and carry on a conversation. Yoga poses are also beneficial because some are specific for detoxifying certain organs. Some types of yoga, Pilates and martial arts involve an aerobic component as well.
Rebounding (bouncing on a mini-trampoline) is especially good for exercising during detox because the low-impact motion allows for excellent stimulation of the lymph system. For best results pick a form of exercise that you enjoy and start slowly. Exercise for at least 20 minutes two to three times per week.
Danielle O'Connell is based in New York City and has been working in the health and fitness field since 1994. She is a certified personal trainer, classically trained Pilates instructor, yoga teacher and nutrition counselor. She writes regular articles and blogs on her website, Urbanwellness.com.