People exercise for numerous reasons including weight loss, weight gain, to improve performance or to improve overall health and well- being. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things a person can do to improving health. The following are some of the more significant benefits associated with consistent exercise:
- Weight control
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduce the risk for type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Reduce the risk of some cancers
- Strengthen bones and muscles
- Improve mental health and mood
- Improve the capacity to do daily activities and prevent falls (older adults)
- Increase longevity
Both diet and exercise play a critical role in controlling weight. Weight gain is the result of consuming more calories that you expend; conversely, weight loss is the result of burning more calories that you consume. Regular physical activity not only helps one burn more calories, but provides additional health benefits as well. When it comes to weight management, a person’s physical activity needs will vary greatly; not all individuals lose and maintain weight the same way. It is recommended to work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week (approximately 30 minutes per day 5 times per week). If you are in need of professional help to get started, it is advisable to seek the help of an exercise physiologist and/or registered dietitian.
Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. By following the guidelines of completing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, you can put yourself at a lower risk for these diseases. It is known that regular aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels.
Reduce the Risk for Type II Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Diabetes is the inability to control glucose levels in the bloodstream. Metabolic Syndrome consists of high blood pressure, excess weight (fat) around the waist, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides. Research shows much lower rates for these conditions when moderate-intense aerobic activity is conducted between 120 and 150 minutes per week.
Reduce the Risk of Some Cancers
Research shows that physically active people have a lower risk for colon and breast cancer than non-physically active people. If you are a cancer survivor, exercise has been shown to offer a better quality of life and improve physical fitness.
Strengthen Bones and Muscles
Research shows that doing regular aerobic exercise at a moderately intense level can slow the loss of bone density, reduce hip fractures from falls, improve balance and coordination, and provide a higher level of functional capacity for everyday living. Strength training exercises can also help maintain muscle mass and strength, improve joint and tendon integrity, and decrease susceptibility to injury. The recommendation for strength training is 2 to 3 times per week.
Improve Mental Health and Mood
Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. Exercise has been shown to reduce depression and may improve sleep. Research has shown that doing aerobic activity or a mix of aerobic and strength training 3 to 5 times per week for 30 to 60 minutes can provide these mental health benefits.
Improve the Capacity to do Daily Activities and Prevent Falls
Research has shown that physically active middle-aged or older adults have a lower risk of functional limitations (such as climbing stairs, lifting heavy objects, or doing work around the home) than inactive people. Independence can be maintained with regular aerobic and strength training activities.
Science shows that physical activity can reduce the risk of dying early from the leading causes of death, like heart disease and some cancers. People who are physically active for approximately 7 hours per week have a 40% lower risk of dying prematurely than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week. You don’t have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous-intensity activity to reduce your risk of premature death. Doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity can provide substantial benefits and is a good first goal.
There are some individuals who are hesitant about becoming active due to the fear of being injured or concerns that exercise has to be hard in order to gain a benefit. The good news is that moderate- intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, is both beneficial and safe for most people.
It is important to understand that all physical activity should initially be done slowly. Additional intensity and frequency can built up over time. Cardiac events, such as a heart attack are rare during physical activity. However, the risk can increase when one becomes much more active than usual, especially after long periods of inactivity. An example of risk could be shoveling snow when not aerobically conditioned to meet the demands of such an intense activity. That is why it is important to start slow and gradually increase the level of activity. If there is any doubt as to how to go about developing a safe and effective program, you should consider consulting with an exercise physiologist or a trainer that has certifications in strength and conditioning from the ACSM or NSCA.
If someone has a chronic health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease, talk with your physician to determine if your condition limits, in any way, your ability to be active. It is important to remember, that any amount of physical activity is better than none. Working with a professional will help you find a program that fits your needs and provide an essential health benefit.
More information can be found in 100 Questions and Answers About Sports Nutrition and Exercise by Lilah Al-Masri, MS, RD, CSSD, LD and Simon Bartlett, PhD, CSCS, ATC. Until 11/30/2015, save 25% plus free shipping when you order online. Use coupon code SportsNut at checkout to apply the discount. U.S. orders only.
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