As a wise person once said: “Exercise. You don’t have time not to.”
If you want to buy some extra years, then spend at least a couple of hours each week exercising. It’s a great investment. We evolved to be moving for much of the day—yet modern life prohibits this natural state of being. Catching prey has been replaced by sitting at a desk, running from predators by filling in tax returns, foraging for plants by buying donuts, and showing off our physical prowess to potential suitors by online dating. The health benefits of physical activity are numerous and noteworthy. Regular activity can…
- increase fitness levels and keep your heart and lungs healthy
- build and maintain healthy bones
- help control weight to decrease the risk of disease
- boost energy and promote restful sleep
- help you feel good about yourself—and happier in general
If physical activity is already part of your routine, that is great. But if your preferred type of movement is getting up from the couch to look in the refrigerator every now and then, you’ll want to get busy increasing your activity levels. Activity—it’s undeniably good for you. Exercise improves health and slows aging in myriad ways. These are just a few of the benefits…
- lowers blood pressure, homocysteine levels, and LDL cholesterol—thus reducing the risk of heart disease
- improves muscle strength, including the heart muscle and muscles lining the colon
- boosts circulation and lymphatic function
- boosts white blood cell performance to enhance the immune system
- lowers risk of cancers of the breast and colon
- improves bone density so reducing the risk of osteoporosis
- boosts metabolism and burns calories to aid weight loss
- improves insulin sensitivity and balances blood glucose thus reducing the risk of diabetes and other chronic degenerative disease
- improves mood by causing the release of endorphins and enhances cognitive function by stimulating blood flow to the brain and growth factors which enable neuronal cells to grow
- stimulates anti-aging growth hormone
- reduces cortisol levels
Some of the most beneficial forms of exercise are the aerobic ones—the ones that get your heart pumping harder and make you out of breath.
Why? Aerobic exercise increases cardiovascular fitness in your heart and lungs. Aerobic exercise is also excellent for your circulation. It helps move the nutrients around the bloodstream to where they are needed—and helps take away (and sweat out!) all those toxins sitting around waiting to cause disease.
How much is enough?
Most experts agree that 30 minutes to one hour of exercise three or more days a week is ideal. If you don’t have the time or inclination for that, however, even ten minutes a day of brisk walking has been shown to cut heart attack risk and benefit health (1).
The message: You don’t need to join a class or take time out from your busy schedule. You can slot in ten minutes here and there of movement—even while talking on the telephone or watching television.
And it’s never too late to start. When people take up exercise in middle or old age, they still get important health benefits.
Don’t take it too far. Over-exercising can increase levels of aging free radicals, suppress immunity, and raise cortisol levels, which is why professional athletes are prone to having low immunity. A recent study of 18-year-old males training to join the Israel Defense Force also showed that over-exercising is likely to cause a low blood count (2).
Start now building more activity into your days. You’ll feel the benefits right away—and make changes that will benefit you for a lifetime.
(1) Timothy S. Church, MD, MPH, PhD; Conrad P. Earnest, PhD; James S. Skinner, PhD; Steven N. Blair, PED. Effects of Different Doses of Physical Activity on Cardiorespiratory Fitness Among Sedentary, Overweight or Obese Postmenopausal Women With Elevated Blood Pressure: A Randomized Controlled Trial Journal of the American Medical Association 2007;297:2081-2091
(2) Dr Drorit Merkel and colleagues, Chaim Sheba Medical Centre, Tel-Hashomer, Journal of Adolescent Health, Sept 2009