Stop procrastinating and start exercising! The benefits of physical fitness are too great to ignore.
Feel younger, live longer. It’s no slogan — these are actual benefits of regular exercise. People with high levels of physical fitness are at lower risk of dying from a variety of causes, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Benefits of Exercise:
Health is defined as freedom from disease. Numerous people are unaware that they are afflicted with risk factors that can lead to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. Many risk factors often have no physical symptoms (silent), and
thus, they are not felt by an individual. The most significant physiological risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure (hypertension), elevated blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Additional risk factors include smoking, obesity, and a lack of physical activity.
Uncontrollable risk factors such as genetics, age, gender, and ethnicity play a significant part in the development of disease, but chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes are commonly a result of individual lifestyle (poor diet, smoking, a lack of exercise, etc.). Contemporary medicine has made great strides in treating and controlling many of the chronic diseases plaguing modern society; however, this intervention comes with a hefty price tag to both the individual and the economy.
Heart disease is still the number-one killer of both men and women in Western society. Numerous studies have demonstrated that coronary artery disease is two to three times higher in sedentary men than physically active men; inactivity doubles a man’s chances of a heart attack. Cardiorespiratory exercise done three or more times per week for 30 to 60 minutes at a moderate intensity has been proven to lower the risk of heart disease. Greater benefits can be experienced with a higher frequency and duration, meaning more than three times per week and longer than 30 minutes.
The health benefits of regular exercise include reduced total blood lipids and blood pressure, improved lipid profiles, weight management, and a healthy heart and circulatory system.
1. Reduced blood lipid profiles
Studies have shown that regular exercise (cardiorespiratory and resistance training) can have a significant positive effect on blood lipid profiles. Both types of exercise can decrease low-density lipoprotein (“bad”) cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein (“good”) cholesterol, thus leading to an overall improvement in the low-density lipoprotein to high-density lipoprotein ratio. Additionally, the total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein ratio improves. Low-density lipoprotein has been implicated in the development
of arterial plaque, whereas high-density lipoprotein is known to reduce and potentially remove arterial plaque. Possessing a high total cholesterol or high low-density lipoprotein to high-density lipoprotein ratio substantially increases a person’s risk for coronary artery disease. Endurance exercise has a higher positive impact on blood lipid profiles than resistance exercise.
2. Reduced blood pressure
Regular exercise has been shown to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. The effect is more pronounced in those who have moderate hypertension compared with individuals with severe hypertension. Average blood pressure decreases of 5 mm Hg systole and 7 mm Hg diastole have been confirmed in persons
suffering from mild hypertension. Although the physiological basis for the decrease in blood pressure resulting from endurance exercise is still unknown, it is theorized that endurance exercise may help to reduce vascular resistance. Active and fit individuals have been shown to be less susceptible to developing hypertension.
3. Weight management
Exercise promotes weight loss and helps to maintain lean body mass. Regular exercise (aerobic and anaerobic) in conjunction with a moderate reduction in calorie intake is an effective method for losing and maintaining weight. Exercise can help to metabolize glucose more efficiently from the circulation by increasing insulin sensitivity in the cells. This improved sensitivity helps remove excess blood glucose for entry into the cells where it is stored as glycogen or immediately oxidized for energy. Evidence exists that demonstrates the effects of exercise on stress reduction and smoking cessation.
4. Strong heart and circulatory system
Chronic aerobic exercise has distinct anatomical and physiological effects on the human heart. Some of the more favorable changes from exercise include larger coronary arteries for better circulation, greater pumping capacity because of increased contractility, and a larger left ventricle for ejecting more blood per beat
throughout the body. All of these positive changes to the heart make it stronger, more efficient, and less susceptible to a heart attack.
Even though exercise is not the panacea to all diseases, it can have a profound effect on reducing or eliminating some of the more insidious risk factors associated with certain chronic illnesses. Exercise has been shown through research to reduce total blood lipids and
blood pressure, improve lipid profiles, control weight, and strengthen the heart and circulatory system. Anyone considering beginning an exercise program should make sure that his or her physician has first given he or she the green light. Consulting with a qualified and experienced exercise physiologist and registered dietitian is advisable to ensure that the program is scientifically based and safe.