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Health Benefits Of Exercise

Are Our Bodies Deteriorating From Lack Of Exercise?

We are an immobile population! The most physically inactive population of people that ever lived! Otherwise able-bodied, we sit while we work--at the computer, at the desk, at the workbench, at the phone, on the tractor. We even sit while we are going from one place to another--in our cars, on the train, on the bus, on the boat, in the airplane. We sit during our recreational hours--at the dinner table, on the lawn chair, on the snowmobile, on the tour bus, at the picnic, at the bar, at the movie, watching athletes compete. Machines have taken over our mobility. We use the escalator and the elevator instead of the stairs to go up or down, we punch the TV remote control instead of standing up and walking a few steps to change channels.

No surprise that we are so out of shape, that we develop pot bellies in our 20s, that our hearts pound and we gasp frantically for air when we have to climb a flight of stairs. No surprise that our arteries clog and our blood pressure zooms. No surprise that our bodies, designed to be physically active, deteriorate from lack of use and suffer from the effects of emotional stress.

The U.S. Surgeon General's 1996 Report on Physical Activity and Health, says that 60% of American adults are not physically active on a regular basis. "In fact," says the report, "25 percent of all adults are not active at all."

EXERCISE IS THE CURE FOR THIS--regular, sweat-inducing, repetitive physical activity for 20 to 30 minutes or more a day, most days of the week. It's free and there is a wide variety of physical activities to choose from, ranging from solitary to competitive.

Why Should We Exercise?

Exercise helps reduce your risk of getting any of a handful of diseases and, more important, of early death. You'll also feel better, perform better, sleep better, and be more at peace with yourself and the world. Here are the specifics:

EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR THE HEART.

The heart is a muscle. Like other muscles, its performance improves when it is regularly challenged by exercise. The heart responds by becoming stronger and more efficient. That's why athletes have slow heart rates, around 60 beats per minute.

EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR YOUR ARTERIES AND VEINS.

Exercise reduces the amount of harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and fats in your blood. It increases the flexibility of the walls of blood vessels, thus reversing hardening of the arteries (known as atherosclerosis). This helps to lower blood pressure. There is even evidence that regular exercise helps evacuate LDL cholesterol and other constituents of the plaque that accumulate on the inner surfaces of blood vessels. This plaque is what clogs arteries, cuts off blood flow, and is a major cause of heart attack and stroke.

EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR YOUR LUNGS.

Working harder increases the lungs capacity to move air in and out. As a result more oxygen is drawn into the body and more carbon dioxide and other waste gases are expelled. Regular exercise helps prevent the decline in oxygen uptake that occurs naturally with aging and as a result of inactivity. But remember, when you stop exercising, you lose all improvements in the functioning of your lungs in as few as three months.

EXERCISE IS GOOD FOR DIABETIES.

By helping muscles to take up glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy, exercise prevents sugar from accumulating in the blood. By burning calories, exercise helps control weight, an important factor in the management of type two diabetes.

EXERCISE HELPS CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT.

Muscles need energy to work. Energy is measured in calories. By burning off calories, exercise helps balance the calories taken in as food. When we are sedentary, the balance is usually tipped toward an excess of calories, which accumulate as fat and additional pounds. When you are physically active there may be a deficit of calories, which takes fat away and lowers weight.

EXERCISE STRENGTHENS YOUR BONES.

When you exercise, bones and muscles work together. Just as muscles grow stronger when physically stressed, so, too, do bones respond by getting stronger. Exercise also increases bone density, which helps prevent osteoporosis, the condition in which bones lose density, weaken, and become porous and very fragile.

EXERCISE HELPS PREVENT CANCER.

Persons who exercise regularly have lower incidences of cancer, in general, and of cancers of the colon, prostate, endometrium, and breast, in particular. Exercise speeds digested food through the colon, denying it the opportunity to sit in one place and ferment and cause irritations that can bloom into cancer. Exercise lowers risks of endometrial and breast cancers by reducing body fat, which produces estrogen, a female hormone that facilitates the growth of some female cancers.

EXERCISE ENHANCES YOUR EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING.

Most people feel calm and have a sence of well-being after they exercise. They feel better about themselves, less tired, and more productive.There seems to be a chemical reason behind these emotional benefits. Exercise, according to one theory, releases beta-endorphin, a natural substance in the body that is hundreds of times more potent than morphine. This begins to occur just 12 minutes into a workout. Another theory points to serotonin as the cause of the exercise high. Increased levels of serotonin in the cental nervous system are associated with feelings of well-being, heightening of appetite, and lessening of mental depression.