By Trish Hartman
Regular exercise can help protect you from heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, noninsulin-dependent diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis, and can improve your mood and help you to better manage stress. Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen to see how much exercise is right for you.
Regular physical activity may reduce the risk of developing or dying from some of the leading causes of illness and death in the United States.
Specific Health Benefits of Exercise:
- Heart Disease, Blood Pressure, and Stroke: Strengthening your heart muscle through exercise can prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure, and improve blood flow.
- Noninsulin-Dependent Diabetes: Reduces body fat associated with high blood pressure and can help control and even prevent diabetes.
- Obesity: Reduces body fat, preserves muscle mass, and increases the body’s ability to effectively process calories. Since obesity is a major contributing risk factor for many diseases, proper nutrition and exercise can help control weight and mitigate risk factors.
- Back Pain: Increasing muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and posture through regular exercise can mitigate back pain and contributing factors of pain such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
- Osteoporosis: Bone loss associated with aging can be prevented through regular weight-bearing exercises.
- Psychological Effects: During exercise, the brain releases chemical messengers that not only stimulate the reward center of the brain but create a sense of happiness throughout the body. The release of this “happy” chemical messenger reduces anxiety and depression and helps with managing stress.
- Better Concentration: Exercise stimulates all parts of your body and that includes your brain; you will experience better memory and increased concentration
- Better Sleep: When you exercise you use more energy and as a result, you sleep better at night. You will fall asleep faster and sleep deeper resulting in better rest.
- Less Stress: Life is just more stressful than it used to be. You work longer hours, family expectations are higher and you are expected to do more all day long. Exercise gives you a time to release stress and frustrations that makes it easier to deal with life.
Exercise may improve depression without drugs. In one study that pitted brisk walking or jogging against the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft) or a combination of the drug plus the exercise, after 4 months, all three groups had about the same improvement in their depression, but at 6 months, the people who kept up the exercise, had the lowest rates of remission.
Exercise may help prevent colon cancer. Getting regular exercise can lower your risk by up to 25 percent; a half-hour walk, four times a week, is all it takes. And if you’re a regular meat-eater, cutting back on red meats and processed meats such as hot dogs, sausage, and lunch meats can also help. Experts at the National Cancer Institute estimate that people who eat red meat or processed meats twice a day most days increase their cancer risk by 24 percent; eating it once a day raises risk by about 20 percent above normal. It prevents and relieves constipation. A way to get things moving is to get yourself moving. Exercise can reduce straining and speed the passage of food through your digestive system. For some people, it cuts the odds of becoming constipated by about 40 percent.
Exercise may prevent strokes. Increase your heart rate. Just 30 minutes a day of exercise strenuous enough to get your heart beating faster can reduce your risk of stroke 20 percent. Exercise harder and watch the risk drop another 7 percent. (Check with your doctor about what amount of exercise is right for you.)