So many of you come to me to analyze your health, to help treat certain conditions a traditional MD may not be taking seriously, or to point you in the direction of healthy aging. But beyond the pellets, pills, and liquids I prescribe, there is something as important (if not more important) than all of it.
The benefits of regular exercise extend far beyond anything I can do for you and addresses so much more than obesity or overweight. Regular physical activity can help reduce your risk for some diseases while improving your overall quality of life. Here are just a few:
- The technical, doctor-sounding stuff first: Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle. This, in turn, lowers your blood pressure while raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (the good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol). It improves blood flow, and increases your heart's working capacity. Optimizing each of these factors can provide additional benefits of decreasing the risk for Peripheral Vascular Disease.
- And what about that blood pressure? Exercise done consistently reduces BP in those with high numbers which also reduces body fat — also associated with high blood pressure. And if you are non-insulin dependent, reducing body fat can help to prevent and control this type of diabetes.
- I think by now you understand how physical activity combined with proper nutrition helps to control weight and prevent obesity, but have you thought about how it can ease back pain as well? By increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture, regular exercise can strengthen your core so that back pain is significantly lessened.
- Have you been told you carried a risk factor for osteoporosis? One of my age 60+ patients told me that when she was in her 50s she was found to be “osteopenic” (her test showed she had a potential precursor to the disease) and was told by her MD that she should consider taking a prescription drug to prevent what might become “dowager’s hump.” She recalls her mom’s physiology had given in to a rounding of her back and neck area, and it scared her. She did a lot of internet research on her own and decided the drug was not for her, citing her plan for an increase in Vitamin D and regular exercise. Combined with the supplements she takes and hormonal pellets she receives following a comprehensive blood panel analysis, she stands as straight as an arrow and is determined never to have to take prescription drugs to stay that way. For more on how exercise can fight off osteoporosis, go here.
- Few of us think about how regular exercise is proven to improve mood and self-esteem, but it’s true. Physical activity is likely to reduce depression and anxiety, permitting you to better manage stress. For my Wholesomegrieving.com blog, I intend to write about how exercise is an important component for those of us suffering from PTSD/loss of a loved one, since our emotions can often shut down parts of our bodies and deteriorate our health.
- And if you ever watched your parents or grandparents’ age, worrying about how a simple loss of balance can lead to a fall that can incapacitate them and even lead to more health issues, then pay attention to how running, brisk walking and any form of aerobic exercise has been shown to postpone the development of disability in older adults.
So are you convinced yet? If you haven’t exercised for a while, start by taking walks, making them a tad brisker each time. A personal trainer is also a great way to go if you have a budget for it, helping to work out all your body parts and keeping you accountable. I have one and I adore and get my workouts done early in the day so they don’t interfere with my busy schedule.
There is no perfect time to start an exercise regimen, but there are literally hundreds to reasons to do so and to keep consistent with it. Our bodies were built to move, not sit. So if you were to give yourself anything in the coming new year, make this the gift that keeps on giving. Apart from a few sore muscles (a GOOD problem), you’ll be glad you did.