Exercise: What's in It for You?
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2021

Exercise: What's in It for You?

Many things are touted as keys to health and happiness. Vitamins, herbal supplements, special mattresses, diets, acupuncture, prescription medications: all claim to be essential elements to a fit body and mind. But extensive evidence has found that regular vigorous exercise turns out to be the single most important thing a person can do to improve their well-being. Countless esteemed organizations, ranging from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Cancer Society, and Consumer Reports all promote frequent vigorous activity as crucial to quality and length of life.

There are many, many benefits to a regimen of recurrent physical activity. And even though only one or two may drive you to pursue exercise, you will benefit from them all.

For instance, exercise is a potent factor in cancer prevention. Folks who get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (such as walking at 3 mph) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise have 50% lower risk of lung cancer and a 20% lower risk of breast cancer. And for those lucky enough to develop malignancy, regular physical activity afterwards helps control pain and reduces reoccurrences.

Adult onset diabetes is currently at epidemic levels in many countries, including the United States. But frequent exercisers, regardless of weight or diet, are half as likely to develop it compared to their couch potato compatriots. There are several mechanisms that cause this profound health benefit. Regular physical exertion improves the function of essential metabolic hormones, like insulin. And active muscles can effectively absorb glucose (sugar) without any help from insulin at all! Many scientists believe that mild cases of adult (Type 2) diabetes can be cured with a constant fitness routine.

There are tremendous cardiovascular benefits to frequent workouts as well. There’s a 35% reduction in heart attack and stroke risk, mainly attributable to blood pressure and cholesterol improvements. Should you be unfortunate enough to experience one of these events, you’ll be much more likely to have a milder attack with a quicker recovery if you’ve followed activity recommendations.

Three feared issues associated with aging are markedly diminished by a good fitness regimen. Severe thining of the bones, called osteoporosis, is much less common. Memory is improved, and dementia/cognitive decline is reduced. And by improving balance, reflexes, and overall muscular strength, exercise significantly cuts back on the likelihood of falling.

There are remarkable mental health benefits to working out as well. Psychiatrists report dramatically lower rates of anxiety and depression. Addiction control, sleep, and libido are improved too. Enhanced weight control and improved self-confidence that regular exercisers experience are added bonuses.

Not yet convinced a fitness routine is for you? The Wall Street Journal reported that exercise yields notable reductions in the risk of getting the flu and even the common cold by boosting the immune system. If you are a gym rat or a jogging junkie, statistics show you’ll take 25 – 50% fewer sick days. No wonder so many employers urge workers to get moving.

To summarize, regular exercise helps keep cancer, heart attacks, strokes, accidental falls, dementia, brittle bones, obesity, and diabetes away. It improves your mood, sleep, and sex life. One’s overall risk of early death is cut by a whopping 40%! So if you currently are a sedentary person, it is time to get moving. Even if just one of the facts above is meaningful to you, it can be powerful motivation. Chant it, sing it, yell it, but use it to start you on your way to a happier healthier you.

Patrice Thornton, MD, is an internal medicine physician at SVMC Northshire Campus in Manchester Center, VT. For additional information, visit svhealthcare.org/locations/northshire-campus.


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