Why Should I Exercise?

revised 4/16/99

Dr. Jeff Jacqmein, M.D.

by Jeffry A. Jacqmein, MD

Exercise?

But I’m happy the way I am. I feel pretty good already. I have good genes. I don’t know where to start. I don’t have time. I don’t like to sweat. OK, I admit, I’m lazy (the real reason most of us don't exercise).

There are many reasons why we don’t exercise, but why should we?

The evidence is overwhelming. Of all the choices we can make to stay healthy, the decision to exercise regularly may be the most important. An estimated 250,000 deaths each year occur due to lack of regular physical activity.

A Finnish study of about 8,000 sets of twins found that those who walked or jogged for just 30 minutes six or more times a month had a 43 percent lower risk of death than sedentary people.

Consider these reasons to exercise:

  • Exercise reduces the risk of obesity. 55 percent of American adults need to lose weight. The American Heart Association placed obesity in the same coronary risk-factor class as smoking, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Obese individuals are also at higher risk for cancers of the uterus, kidney, colon, breast, and gallbladder.
  • Exercise, more so than diet, is the key to health and longevity. This, according to a survey that followed nearly 22,000 men over an average eight-year period. The study, recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that men who were fit but obese had a lower death rate than those who were unfit but lean. Mortality rates also showed little difference between fit, obese men and fit, lean men. Instead of asking obese patients to diet, the study suggests, it would be better to encourage them to improve fitness by going for three 10-minute walks a day.

    Fitness, not weight, is what is really important in health. And that's good news because
    most people have more control over exercise than they do over their weight, which has a
    strong genetic component.

    Exercise and diet are of equal importance, but if there's only one thing a patient can do, it's
    better they opt for exercise, because good exercise habits are usually maintained. Diets are
    not.
  • Exercise can prevent heart disease and stroke. The heart becomes stronger, blood pressure drops, HDL (good) cholesterol increases, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides decrease. The risk for heart attack may drop 20% in regular exercisers.
  • Exercise boosts our immune system, which means fewer infections.
  • Exercise combats osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises (walking, resistance training, etc.) builds bone density, while couch sitting causes bone breakdown.
  • Exercise helps prevent back pain. The increased flexibility, balance, and tone promote a good defense against back injuries and provide for faster healing.
  • Exercise releases and relieves stress. Regular physical activity allows us to manage our life stressors more effectively.
  • Exercise improves our self-esteem. With improving fitness begin to look and feel better.
  • Exercise helps us manage our blood pressure.The three most important, non-drug, methods of lowering blood pressure include sodium restriction, weight control and regular aerobic exercise.
  • Exercise improves our mood. By releasing natural endorphins our bodies benefit by having more energy and less susceptibility to depression.
  • Exercise may also help ward off Alzheimer's disease. In one study, comprising a group of 370 people, those who did not have Alzheimer's had engaged in significantly more exercise during their lifetimes than people with the disease.
  • Exercise helps us sleep better. As sleep quality improves with fitness we feel more rested with less sleep. This "buys" us some of the time needed for exercise. Pretty good bargain, eh?
  • Exercise improves our digestion.
  • Exercise helps us manage our blood sugars. Exercise helps to prevent the occurrence of type 2 diabetes and, in those who are already diabetic, some are able to decrease or stop medicines altogether with regular exercise.
  • Exercise improves our circulation. Fitness may improve skin complexion through the improvement in circulation.
  • Exercise can be fun and relaxing! Keep it fun and you are more likely to stick with it!

Nike is right...Just Do It!

 

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