Physical Activity and Health

We have all read or heard that it is important to stay physically active in a consistent way.  We usually think of this in terms of working out to keep an adequate weight.

While this is true, exercise has many shapes and colors, and it brings many more benefits to our life.  Let us explore some of them.

An adequate weight is, in fact, an important result of exercising.  As our body moves, it burns calories that come from the food we eat.  The more activity we engage in, the more calories we burn and the less they are stored in our body as fat.

An important benefit of exercising is reducing the risk of developing serious health problems.  Heart disease is one of them.  Exercise boosts “good” cholesterol and decreases “bad” triglycerides, which helps blood to flow smoothly and prevents clogging in our arteries.

Staying fit helps prevents other illnesses such as high blood pressure, strokes, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, depression and even falling (especially in older adults), among others.

Regular exercise favors good bone density and muscle tone, and improves endurance.

When we move, our heart beats faster, pumping more blood and providing more oxygen and nutrients to our cells. All our organs are able to work better and more efficiently. This is an important improvement in our overall health.

Exercise also improves mood, as it helps you release stress after a long day.  Physical activity stimulates chemicals in your brain that make you feel happier and relaxed, and promote clear thinking. They also make you feel better about yourself, by improving your self-esteem and making you feel more energetic.

These benefits will result in a desire to do more exercise, accomplish more, have better relationships and enjoy other people’s company.  As someone has said, “Live longer, live better, live life to the fullest!”

So now, how do I get started?

In choosing how to exercise, any activity you enjoy is usually the best.  If you like a particular sport or dancing or enjoy a walk outdoors, these are a great way to begin.  If going to the gym works for you, then go for it.

Exceptions to this are having an injury or not having exercised in a long time.  In these cases, you should look for advice from your physician.

Another way of including more activity in your daily life is doing little things that can go a long way.  Some examples of things you can do at work are parking your car further away and walking to your office, or using the stairs instead of the elevator.  Several times during the day, get out of your seat, walk around your office or go up and down one flight of stairs.

At home, cleaning, mowing the lawn and fixing the garden, especially now that you are aware of the benefits, can be rewarding!  When watching TV, you might do some kind of exercise.  You could walk while on the phone, or take a dog for a walk, even if it is not your dog.

A good way to start is slowly and easily.  Eventually, you may want to start adding time and other activities, and, very important, remember to drink enough water, especially in hot weather!

Lastly, here are some wise words to think about, regardless of our age.

“We don’t stop exercising because we grow old; we grow old because we stop exercising.” – Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH



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