You always hear people say, “You need to exercise regularly to maintain your health”, but just how much does exercise really do for your health overall? Are the health benefits of exercise really worth the effort it takes to exercise regularly? Can’t you just eat better and still maintain your health just the same? Can anyone tell me what the real health benefits of exercise are or is it all just speculation based on heresy?
Alright then, here are some really good reasons to consider for making exercise part of your healthy lifestyle:
Americans spend more than $600 billion dollars per year for health care. That equals almost $3,000 for every single person in the whole population of the country. Sadly, this financial commitment has shown no signs of any decrease, nor has it produced fully acceptable results with regard to treating a wide variety of chronic health problems.
Attempts have been made to identify the factors which have been major contributions to the epidemic of medical problems in our society today and a number of probable reasons for why so many people are so seemingly unhealthy have been named as; poor eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, poor health habits (i.e. smoking).
At the same time, studies have been done to see what, if anything can be done to lower either the number or the severity of the medical problems affecting the public. These studies have shown some convincing evidence that exercise has substantial medical benefits for people of all ages. Two of the most publicized efforts to investigate the possible link between exercise and disease were longitudinal studies, each of which used more than 10,000 subjects.
Some years ago, in a study of 17,000 Harvard graduates, Ralph Paffenbarger, M.D., found that men who expended 300 calories per day, the equivalent of walking briskly for 45 minutes, reduced their death rates from all causes by 28% and lived an average of two years longer than their sedentary former classmates.
A more recent study conducted by Steven Blair, P.E.D., of the Institute of Aerobics Research in Dallas documented the fact that a relatively moderate amount of exercise has a significant effect on the mortality rate of both men and women. The data was adjusted for age differences between subjects in an eight year study of 13,344 individuals and the conclusion was that the higher the fitness level, the lower the death rate. An analysis of the data yielded by both studies suggests one conclusion…exercise is medicine!
Accepting the idea that regular exercise can play an important role in reducing your risk of incurring a medical problem and reducing your overall health care costs is a critical step. While listing all of the medical problems and conditions that can be at least partially treated and controlled by exercise would be very extensive, here are a few of the most significant health concerns and the manner in which exercise is thought to help in each case.
Allergies: exercise is one of the body’s most efficient ways to control nasal congestion.
Angina: regular aerobic exercise dilates vessels, increasing blood flow, thereby improving your body’s ability to extract oxygen from the bloodstream.
Anxiety: exercise triggers the release of mood-altering chemicals in the brain.
Arthritis: by making the skeletal joints move, exercise induces the manufacture of synovial fluid and helps to distribute it over the cartilage and to force it to circulate throughout the joint space.
Back pain: exercise helps to strengthen the abdominal muscles and the lower back muscles.
Cholesterol: exercise will raise your HDL (the good cholesterol) in the blood and lower your LDL levels, the bad cholesterol.
Diabetes: exercise helps lower excess blood sugar levels and improves your circulation.
Heart disease: exercise, by lowering your body fat, lowering your LDL levels, decreasing your blood pressure, lowering your heart rate and increasing heart and lung efficiency, lowers your risk of heart problems.
Knee problems: exercise helps strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the knee making it more able to withstand stress.
Menstrual problems and PMS: exercise helps to control the hormonal imbalances often associated with PMS by increasing the release of beta-endorphins.
Osteoporosis: exercise promotes bone density, lowering the risk of suffering a bone fracture.
Overweight problems: exercise suppresses your appetite, increases your metabolic rate, burns fat and increases lean muscle mass.
So, are the benefits of regular exercise really worth the effort? Should you make exercise a part of your lifestyle? Absolutely! As you can see, in many ways, your life may depend on it.