DEAR JIM: I have read your columns for many years and always find them very educational and entertaining. However, I sometimes have difficulty believing that exercise can really help people that much. I see my friends and relatives growing older every day and suffering from declining health, and exercise is the last thing on their minds. I know that you really believe in the whole exercise thing, but surely it can’t be as good you as you say it is for you. DOUBTING DEBBIE FROM DUBUQUE
DEAR DOUBTING DEBBIE: Yes, I really do believe in the whole “exercise thing,” and yes, it CAN be as good as I say it is for you. If you have read my columns for as long as you say you have, you will know that I have frequently emphasized that exercise is not a cure-all for everything that besets us, but it can help to prevent certain conditions from developing and greatly improve our quality of life. But why take my word for it?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity can improve health and reduce the risk of premature death in the following ways:
- Reduces the risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) and the risk of dying from CHD.
- Reduces the risk of stroke.
- Lowers both total blood cholesterol and triglycerides and increases high-density lipoproteins (HDL or the “good” cholesterol).
- Lowers the risk of developing high blood pressure.
- Helps reduce blood pressure in people who already have it.
- Lowers the risk of developing non-insulin-dependent (Type 2) diabetes mettitus.
- Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.
- Helps people achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Reduces feelings of depression.
- Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
- Helps older adults become stronger and better able to move about without falling or becoming excessively fatigued.
Even as we grow older and, perhaps, even frail and incapacitated, the important thing is to “keep moving” – the expression so famously identified with fitness guru Jack LaLanne, now 94 and still going strong. Age and disabilities may limit the amount and scope of our physical activity, but there are very few of us who can’t do “something” physical to make our lives better.
For more information about the importance of exercise in our lives, refer to www.cdc.gov.
Jim Evans is a 41-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and internationally recognized fitness consultant. Send your questions about health and fitness to firstname.lastname@example.org.