Health Benefits of Exercise

Heart of  Dixie Cardiology
Jamison C. Jones, MD, F.A.C.C.

Benefits of Exercise

No matter what age, there is excellent scientific evidence that those who engage in daily exercise are healthier, and more independent than those who are unable to do so. Daily exercise can help you live longer by reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. Exercise helps with the feelings of depression and anxiety. It strengthens bones and muscles, reducing dangerous falls in the elderly. Finally, there is evidence that it reduces your chance of developing many different types of cancers including colon, breast, and lung cancer. Daily exercise is inexpensive and is the most effective holistic approach to wellness that I have found.

These many health benefits can be obtained through various types of exercise, walking is the most common. Other types of low impact exercise, however, show similar benefits. This includes stationary bike, swimming, weight lifting, or rowing machine. Choose the type that best suits you and your individual conditions (arthritis, joint or other individual problems). Set a goal and try to work up to 5 days a week, 30 minutes each day. Outlined below is additional information about the benefits of daily exercise.

1. Improve your cardiovascular health.
Regular physical activity like walking is great for your heart and your blood vessels. It enhances circulation, helping to lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack. It also helps lower cholesterol. It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits: Walking briskly for just 30 minutes a day is enough to improve heart and vascular health.

2. Strengthen your bones.
Exercise, particularly walking can help strengthen bones and reduce your risk of osteoporosis. The Nurses Health Study found that women who walked for a minimum of 4 hours a week saw a 40% reduced risk of hip fractures. Vigorous exercise such as running, jumping and weightlifting offer bone-strengthening benefits, the good news is that walking appears to do the same. Great news for those just starting a workout routine, or people who must do low-impact exercises due to joint issues.

3. Boost your mood.
Having a rough day? Walk it off. Numerous studies have linked walking for exercise with improved mood and reduced stress levels. And it’s even better if you can take a stroll through nature €” walking outdoors has been shown to help reduces feelings of stress and frustration.

4. Reduce your risk of falls.
Exercising, particularly walking, on a regular basis will help prevent the trips and falls that can occur when we age. Balance loss and weakening muscles in the legs can cause a shuffling gait that can put you at a higher risk of tripping or falling. Regular walks can help improve balance by strengthening the lower body. This will keep you independent and safe.

4. Sharpen your mind.
Having a hard time remembering where your keys are? Exercising regularly appears to help specifically bolster the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. A study of women ages 65 and older, performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more.

7. Decrease pain from arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Exercising most days of the week may help lessen pain and reduce symptoms for those with conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.

8. Improve your blood glucose levels.
Walking can help improve your blood glucose levels at any time of the day or night but perhaps even more so right after a meal. One study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that even a brief 15-minute walk after a meal was effective at lowering blood sugar levels. Keeping your weight down is also key to management of diabetes.

9. Raise your immunity.
Stay healthy with daily steps. Exercising every day may even help your body fend of illness. Regular exercise can also contribute to maintaining a healthy weight, which helps reduce your risk of diseases such as cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

10. Improve your sleep.
Daily exercise may help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly, especially if you suffer from insomnia. A morning walk outdoors may be particularly beneficial since exposure to daylight can help you stay in tune with your natural circadian rhythms.

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