We’ve all heard that exercise is good for us, but are you aware that exercising is actually helpful towards preventing diseases?
Most people associate exercising either with trying to lose weight or body building. However, many health professionals advocate physical activity due to the fact that there are more benefits that can be gleaned aside from weight loss, and people are finally catching on. While there has been a steady increase in the number of new fitness routines and workout crazes that crop up seemingly every other week, this Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study shows that in 2012, only 24.6 percent of male Americans met both aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines – and the number is even lower for women at just 17.1 percent.
Our excuses for not exercising include not having enough time between work, children and maintaining a home, or between school and homework; not having the energy to devote to physical activity; finding it too overwhelming to begin an exercise routine; and, having no access or financial means to join a gym, among others. However, the health benefits of exercising are too significant to be dismissed, and conversely, the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle are too great to be ignored.
The simple fact of the matter is this: you and I need at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week to achieve optimal physical and mental health, according to the American Heart Association. The AHA also discloses that physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories, such as climbing stairs, playing sports, walking, jogging, swimming, or biking.
Regularly Exercising Reduces the Risk of:
Heart disease and stroke – Exercising regularly can help improve your heart’s health as it strengthens your heart muscle, lowers your blood pressure, raises your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (aka good cholesterol) and lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (aka bad cholesterol), improves your blood flow, and increases your heart’s working capacity.
Hypertension – As mentioned above, regular exercise helps reduce blood pressure in people with elevated blood pressure levels. Furthermore, hypertension can be countered by losing weight and reducing alcohol and salt intake.
Diabetes – With regular exercise, insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism are meaningfully increased, meaning the body’s cells are more able to transport glucose into the cells of the liver, muscle and adipose tissue.
Obesity – Physical activity, together with proper nutrition, can help control weight and prevent obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for various diseases.
Back pain – Regular physical activity increases muscle strength and endurance, as well as improves flexibility and posture which can help alleviate and prevent back pain.
Cancer – A growing number of studies suggest that regular physical activity can also help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers, such as colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and endometrial cancer. Furthermore, other studies show that engaging in physical activity after diagnosis can help in recovery and improve outcomes for patients.
Dementia – A growing body of evidence shows that regular exercise can decrease the risk of dementia in the elderly.
In addition to these, researchers have found that regular exercise can also help reduce depression and anxiety, as well as help individuals to manage stress more effectively. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, studies have also shown that regular participation in aerobic exercise decreases overall levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes mood, improves sleep and improves self-esteem.