A review of research summarizing the findings of 40 papers published between 2006 and 2010 has found that exercise affects conditions including heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. According to Science Daily, “… [A]part from not smoking, being physically active is the most powerful lifestyle choice any individual can make to improve their health.”
The most common reason people give for not exercising is lack of time. “Specifically … men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64% greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity. And many of these men routinely exercised … [S]cientists are just beginning to learn about the risks of a mostly sedentary day,” according to NPR.
An editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine also highlighted much of the recent evidence linking too much sitting with biomarkers of metabolic health. They reported research showing sitting time correlates with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other prevalent chronic health problems.
Every day in 2015, 539 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and every day 214 will die of the disease. The good news is that exercise can make a difference.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal points out that women who exercise regularly can reduce their breast cancer risk by 20 to 30% over their inactive counterparts. Women who exercise for 150 minutes a week or more could be reducing their risk of endometrial cancer, whether or not they are overweight.
Another study of women being treated for breast cancer claimed they were 50% less likely to die of the disease if they walked at an average pace for three to five hours a week. If just three to five hours of walking a week can so drastically improve your chances of surviving a hormone-responsive breast cancer tumour, imagine what a few more hours a week of exercise could do for you!
When you first start a new activity, your body responds more readily and you begin to see results. You may lose a little weight, begin to see muscle definition, or feel stronger. But over time, your workout will become less challenging. After a month or two, you may stop losing weight and not know why.
After that initial burst, your body gets used to the activity and it’s no longer challenged as that activity becomes a normal part of the routine. If you want to start seeing results again, or just continue the progress you’ve made, switch up your routine by adding a new exercise, class, machine, speed or tempo.
If you love what you’re doing now, don’t give it up. Stick to your favourite activities – just try to increase your intensity and duration. If you walk, add some speed work, increase your distance, add hills to your route or learn to add Nordic Poles. Anything different will keep your body guessing.
Feeling sore and tired? You may be over-training. If you work out every day for one, two or more hours you may not be giving your body time to recover and repair. Exercise should be invigorating and fun.
Aching leg and arm joints, tender muscles and an unshakeable feeling of fatigue are the first symptoms you’re taking your workout routine too far. Extreme workouts can lead to hypothyroidism which can have a negative effect on hormone production, fertility, heart health, immune system and weight. The inability to control your weight with increased exercise is a sign of over-training. One week you’re losing weight, the next you’re stuck on a plateau, or even worse, gaining weight. Over-training and over-eating sometimes go hand in hand. It’s all about balance.
A recent study showed that aerobic exercise increases the growth of new brain cells in humans. Neuroscientist Kirk Erikson and his research team at the University of Pittsburgh, publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, studied a group of 120 adults for a year. Half the group was given a stretching program to perform three times a week, while the other half engaged in three days of aerobics each week.
After one year, the two groups were evaluated looking at three parameters. First, using MRI scans, the change in size of the hippocampus was calculated. Second, serum measurements were measured before and after the trial. Finally, the study measured memory function at the beginning and end of the trial.
The results were impressive. While the group doing the stretching program showed a decline in memory, hippocampal size and BDNF levels, the aerobics group showed not only improvement in memory, but an increase in the size of the hippocampus accompanied by an increase in their blood levels of BDNF.
The authors concluded: “These results clearly indicate that aerobic exercise is neuro-protective and that starting an exercise regimen later in life is not futile for either enhancing cognition or augmenting brain volume.”
We all know exercise is good for us, but just how good is the question. The benefits of moderate consistent exercise range from increasing energy and reducing stress to sleeping better and managing your weight.
Regular physical activity can help prevent or manage heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, osteoporosis (bone loss) and sarcopenia (muscle wasting). Exercise also increases your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or ‘good’ cholesterol while decreasing your LDL and triglycerides – plus it can help prevent certain types of cancer.
When you move, you stimulate various brain chemicals that leave you feeling happier and more relaxed with more confidence and improved self-esteem which can have a positive effect on depression.
When you move more, that motion increases muscle mass which allows you to burn more calories every second of every day, even when you’re sleeping. You don’t need a lot of time to exercise: just incorporate more motion into your day. Take the stairs, walk during your lunch hour, do some squats while waiting for dinner to cook. Small changes performed consistently can have a big effect on your overall health and weight. One of the best exercises is to leave the table when you’re 80% full!
Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. Improved sleep can improve concentration, energy levels, mood and weight management.
Physical activity increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients delivered to your tissues. When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to enjoy life.
Because exercise can improve your energy level, it can increase blood flow for both men and women. This boosts self-confidence which can have a positive effect on your sex life.
When you feel good, life is good. You have more time to do simple things that are so fulfilling: going for a walk, riding a bike, playing tennis, swimming, dancing, playing with your children or grandchildren. Our goal is to live long – not last long. Start moving today and start enjoying life again!