Whether you are overweigh, have heart disease in your family, just plainly stressed or perfectly healthy, you are told time and time again: exercise, exercise, exercise. But, besides having to exercise to lose weight, what other benefits there are of physical activity?
Sedentary lifestyle and diseases
Scientists estimate than more than 5 ·3 million people die prematurely every year as a consequence of sedentary lifestyle: 7 percents of type 2 diabetes, 6 percents of the heart disease, 10 percents of colon cancer and 10 percents of breast cancer.
In 2008, US government published the first Physical Activity Guide for Americans. According to the Guide, the requirements for a healthy adult are fairly modest: about 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise every week. It is best to distribute it to every day instead of cramming it into one day, but it can be practically anything: biking, walking, swimming, dancing, gardening or anything else. The goal is to speed up the heart and breathing rate. But, CDC reports that only 20 percents of Americans managed to fulfill this modest requirement.
The reason for exercising
Exercise reduces stress: There is a neurochemical reason why exercise is such a great way to reduce stress: exercise reduces production of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. It also stimulates the secretion of endorphins, the natural mood elevators. That is why we feel so happy and exhilarated after a good run or walk.
Indirectly, exercise also boosts your self-esteem. You feel much better about yourself after your waistline shrinks, your energy increases and your muscles start bulging. You feel ready to take on the world, you perform better at work, you enjoy more being with your friends and your sex life improves.
Exercise helps prevent diabetes: Alone or in combination with balanced diet, exercise is one of the main tools for managing both type 1 and 2 diabetes. It works by improving glucose uptake by increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering body adiposity.
Exercise prevents heart disease: Directly or indirectly, exercise can reduce your danger of heart disease by 55 percents. Exercise forces your heart to pump more efficiently, it reduces your blood pressure, it increases good cholesterol, it inhibits formation of blood clots, it helps reduce stress, controls your body’s insulin production and keeps your weight under control.
Exercise can prevent cancer: According to several studies, people with active lifestyle have about 16 percents less risk of having cancers of colon, liver, pancreas and stomach. While it is not clear exactly how, scientists believe that the reduction in the number of fat cells is one way, as cancer cells have affinity for them. Also, exercise boosts our own immune system, our natural protection. Exercise also affects the production of various hormones, especially sex hormones and insulin, which are active factors for the spread of cancers.
According to the Center for Disease Control, every year more than 250 000 Americans die unnecessarily because of their sedentary lifestyle. It gives a new meaning to the phrase ‘do or die’. Don’t be part of this statistic. It is easy to find two and half hours per week to get moving. Chose something you really like, like walking your dog, playing with kids, gardening, climbing stairs, biking to work. As the advertisement says “Just do it.”
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