Fighting Disease with Exercise
It’s certainly not a cure-all. But it’s pretty impressive.
Exercise is one of the few things that can help prevent or slow the development of most—if not all—major health problems. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, bone loss—to name a few. Topping things off, exercise can help ease the aging process, for example, by strengthening and stretching muscles and joints.1
In no time at all, you may also notice other subtle changes from exercise: more energy, less stress, firmer muscles, better-fitting clothes.1 Some pretty nice bonuses, don’t you think?
Heart benefits. Your heart is one of the organs that benefits the most. That’s a muscle you really can’t afford to ignore. Exercise helps your heart by:
- Strengthening it, making it a more efficient pump
- Reducing high cholesterol and plaque buildup
- Reducing blood pressure
- Helping you manage your weight1
Recent exercise research. Recent studies shed a little more light on the many benefits of exercise. For example, one study underscored the link between physical and emotional health: People who had exercised 10 years before having a heart attack were 20 percent less likely to have depression after the event than those who had been inactive.2
And, then there’s the matter of mental health. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used brain scans to compare the strength of brain connections in younger and older adults. As expected, younger adults had stronger brain connections. But older adults with a low-to-moderate range of endurance had stronger brain connections than those who were inactive. This suggested that even moderate levels of physical fitness can boost long-term brain function.3
In other cases, short bursts of high-intensity exercise may have greater benefits. A new Canadian study suggests it might help people with type 2 diabetes more than longer sessions of less intensity activity.4 Participants in the high-intensity group had twice the improvement in blood sugar levels as those in the low-intensity group. Why is this so? Researchers aren’t sure. The higher- intensity workouts may use energy in a different way. Another plus? People can fit this kind of workout more easily into their busy schedules.
Walking tips. So what kind of exercise should you do? The possibilities are endless. Look at your daily routines for how to incorporate more walking, for example you could walk up the stairs instead of using the escalator or you could set up a walk schedule with a friend. For many people, walking is a great choice. It’s easy to do and doesn’t need to cost a dime. Now, that’s a cost-effective approach to aging and fighting disease!
Try these tips:
- Warm up by walking slowly for the first 5 minutes.
- Increase your speed for about 15 minutes
- Use long strides, but walk at a comfortable pace for you.
- Swing your arms, point your toes straight ahead, and keep your back straight and head up.
- End your walk at a slower pace.
- Do some gentle stretches while you’re still warmed up.5
No matter the exercise program, start slowly, especially if exercise is new to you. Before you begin, talk over your plans with your doctor or me.
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
- WebMD: 10 Fitness Facts. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/men/features/exercise-benefits?page=3 Accessed 12-1-15.
- HealthDay: The Physically Active Less Prone to Post Heart-Attack Depression. Available at:https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_155572.html Accessed 12-1-15.
- HealthDay: Physical Fitness Linked to Mental Fitness in Seniors. Available at https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_155694.html Acessed 12-1-15.
- HealthDay: Short Bursts of Intense Exercise Might Benefit Type 2 Diabetics. Available at:https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_155644.html Accessed 12-1-15.
- HealthDay: “Health Tip: Walk Correctly.” Available at: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_154789.html Accessed 12-2-15