Did you know that according to the American Cancer Society only 1 in 8 adults exercises the recommended five days a week? And yet, exercise plays an important role in our health. Exercising regularly has a direct impact on cardiovascular health, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and depression. Most of us think that we don't have enough time to exercise, but the truth is that if we value our health then we must make time for regular exercise. I've learned some interesting things about exercise and health that I would love to share with you. Benefits of Exercise on Our Daily Lives
- improves strength, endurance and flexibility
- boost our immune system and energy
- helps us cope with stress
- improves our mood and self-esteem
- better focus and concentration
- helps us to sleep better
- reduces our risk for becoming obese
- reduces anxiety and tension
- reduces the risk of premature death from all causes
Exercise and Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular disease can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and hardening of the arteries. It is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every 37 seconds, a person dies from cardiovascular disease. And it's not just something that happens to older people, 17% of fatal heart attacks happen to people under the age of 65. But the good news is that exercise helps to protect our heart from cardiovascular disease by making our hearts stronger. Having a strong heart is important because a strong heart pumps the blood more efficiently with less beats and with a stronger pumping action. The heart is a pump that can wear out so you don't want to overwork it.
How exercise protects our heart from Cardiovascular disease:
- makes our heart strong
- keeps our blood vessels strong and open
- lowers blood pressure
- lowers bad cholesterol levels
- keeps weight under control at a healthy level
For more information on exercise, health and your heart, check out the American Heart Association. Here's a great place to start.
Exercise and Cancer
From the American Cancer Society, "An estimated 1 out of every 3 cancers in the United States is linked to excess body weight, poor nutrition, or physical inactivity. While these factors are all related and may all contribute to cancer risk, body weight seems to have the strongest evidence linking it to cancer. Excess body weight contributes to 14% to 20% of all cancer-related deaths. Being overweight or obese is clearly linked with an increased risk of many cancers, including cancer of the breast (in women past menopause), colon, endometrium (uterus), esophagus, and kidney." Exercise can also help people that already have cancer by helping them to deal better with the side effects of treatment, like fatigue. And for people with colon cancer, exercise can even prevent recurrence.
Exercise and Alzheimer's Disease
In a recent 13 year study, researchers found that normal adults that walked 6 miles a week, reduced their risk of Alzheimer's by 50% compared to those who were sedentary. According to the Mayo Clinic in their December 2010 Health Letter, exercise and physical activity are the best known methods that we have to prevent Alzheimer's disease and dementia. How exciting is that?!?
Exercise and Diabetes
Exercise is also beneficial in the prevention Type 2 diabetes. 90-95% of Americans with diabetes have Type 2. Major factors for developing Type 2 diabetes are age, obesity, physical inactivity, family history and lifestyle. But exercise can prevent it. In fact, it is more effective in delaying or preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes than medication. People that are pre-diabetic can reduce their risk of ever developing diabetes by losing just 5-7% of their weight. And for those that already have diabetes, exercise can help too. Exercise stabilizes blood glucose levels because it makes the body more sensitive to insulin. (Fit and Well, 9th edition by Thomas D. Fahey)
Exercise and Depression
Depression is more than just feelings of sadness; it also effects our health and well-being. According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, vol. 25 June 2009, having depression doubles the risk of cardiac death and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke by 60%. The reason for this is that depression affects our heart and blood vessels and as a result, can cause heart problems. But when you exercise, your brain releases endorphins and norepinephrine which can counter the symptoms of depression. And in the long-term, exercise can help the body grow new nerve cells and reinforce the connections between the neural processes. All it takes is moderate exercise for 35 minutes, 5 days a week or 60 minutes, 3 days a week to improve depression symptoms as effectively as medication and to prevent relapse for people with mild to moderate depression.
How to Reap the Benefits
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week.
- Moderate intensity exercise increases the heart rate by a noticeable amount and burns about 150 calories.
Some examples of moderate intensity exercise:
- yard work
- playing touch football
- shooting a basketball
In spite of all the reasons that you should exercise, many people still think that they can't. There are usually three excuses that people make as to why they cannot exercise.
Excuse #1: Not enough time.
I believe that you have to make room for activities in your life that will keep you healthy. You have to make the time or else getting sick will take the time from you. No matter how busy you are, a major illness will sideline you. So it's better to allot some time each day now to maintain your health. One way to allot time for exercise in a busy day is to multitask. Try exercising while you watch tv.
Excuse #2: Not enough money.
You can actually save money when you are healthy. You don't have to pay for as many doctor bills and medicines when you're healthy. Physically active people save about $500 a year on healthcare cost. And being active does not mean that you have to join a gym or take classes or buy expensive equipment. Walking is free. It's a safe and effective way to exercise. And according to the American Heart Association, people that walk for an exercise program are more likely to stick to it. And if that isn't a good enough reason to walk, how about this? The American Heart Association also says that for every hour that you walk, you will increase your life expectancy by 2 hours!
Excuse #3: lack of motivation or you just don't care.
If you just don't care then I ask you this. How important is your health to you? Do you care if you get heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease or diabetes? Do you want to live your life as a sick person or as a well person? Don't take care of your body and it will eventually catch up to you. Spending just 30 minutes a day out of the 16 hours that you are awake is not too much to ask.
Exercise is more than just a weight loss tool. It impacts our health on many levels. It improves our day-to-day lives by boosting our immune system and mood and by helping us to concentrate and sleep better. On a greater level of health, regular moderate exercise can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and depression. All it takes is just 30 minutes a day 5 days a week to reduce your risk of some major health problems. How important is your health to you? Is 30 minutes a day really too much to ask to reduce your risk of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's or Type 2 diabetes?
Disclaimer: Before you embark on a new exercise routine, it is always best to check with your doctor first.