Monday, March 8, 2010

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle - Benefits of Daily Exercise

From America on the Move:

Benefits of Daily Exercise

A healthy lifestyle includes eating a balanced diet and incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Being physically active can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. For many of these chronic diseases, diet and exercise are each listed as modifiable independent risk factors. What this means is that both diet and exercise are required elements of a healthful lifestyle. Developing a healthful eating plan without considering your activity level or initiating an exercise program without taking your diet into consideration isn't as preventative as including both as part of your healthful lifestyle plan. Exercise is also great for reducing stress and contributing to your emotional well-being.

Health benefits associated with physical activity:
-Lowering LDL "bad" cholesterol and raising HDL "good" cholesterol—Regular exercise has been shown to elevate HDL-c levels and, in combination with a low-saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet, improve the overall blood cholesterol profile.

-Lowering blood pressure—Exercise can help lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. Elevated blood pressure is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. Aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 8 to 10 mm Hg.

-Reducing excess weight—Obesity, which is a major contributor to the development and maintenance of the diabetic state, is directly affected by exercise. Exercise lowers body adiposity and, in combination with a weight-loss program, will accelerate fat loss and maintain lean body mass. If you're overweight, losing just 5-10% of your total body weight can minimize the associated health risks.

-Achieving and maintaining good blood glucose control—Moderate exercise is recommended in the prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes. Increased physical activity can improve glucose uptake in the cells by increasing insulin sensitivity. Exercise is also beneficial in normalizing the altered blood cholesterol profiles associated with Type 2 diabetes.

-Increased energy levels and reduced stress—Active individuals, as compared to sedentary individuals, are more likely to be better adjusted, have improved cognitive function, and experience fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise also improves one's energy levels, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

-Strengthening bones and toning muscles—Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, or aerobics, is an essential ingredient for achieving and maintaining an adequate bone density. Studies indicate that women who walk at least seven miles per week have higher bone density than women who walk less than one mile per week. Since the effects of exercise on bone integrity are site-specific, it is recommended to do a variety of weight-bearing exercises.

Adapted from an article by Michele M. Doucette, PhD

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