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Eight ways exercise can significantly improve an individual's health

Running & Fitness
Saturday, October 9, 2021

I have written how fit individuals will listen to a fitness lecture and read articles and books about fitness. The unfit person will avoid these sources of getting fit because it is more of a negative experience of being told they need to start moving. For the positive outlook individuals, the October issue of Nutrition Action is a must-read for those looking for a pat on the back for exercising. The cover is titled, “Step It Up, Why – and how – to get moving.” The article listed eight reasons that a person should exercise.

The first reason was about staying sharp and that “physical activity seems to make people a bit more hardy against cognitive decline ... It can lower your risk for more serious cognitive impairments like dementia.” That is definitely a good valid reason to exercise.

The second reason was the effect exercise has on diabetes. “Regular physical activity strongly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people of all body sizes.” The best point that the article mentioned is that the payoff is immediate. The article did mention the need to be consistent. After three days of being sedentary and not exercising, the improvements in insulin sensitivity may disappear.

The third reason was the familiar benefits for heart health. The article mentioned that “150 minutes a week (about 20 minutes a day) of moderate-intensity exercise had a 15% lower risk of heart disease than those who did no exercise. Exercise can lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and other risk factors for heart disease. It also helps keep the blood vessels supple.” This portion of the article also went over the risks of sitting down for long periods of time every day.

The fourth reason for exercise was for mental health. “An acute bout of exercise has immediate benefits of short-term feelings of anxiety.” The article mentioned several studies that found that exercise lowers the risk of being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or stress after six years. One study found that after 12 weeks of physical activity scores on a depression questionnaire fell by roughly 50% in those individuals that hit the national physical activity guidelines goals.

The fifth reason for exercise was its effect on cancer prevention. The article mentioned that “high levels of physical activity are linked with a lower risk of colon and breast cancer.” It mentioned that it also has an effect on other cancers such as endometrial, kidney, bladder, stomach and liver. The article stated that “Physical activity contributes to a lower risk of cancer by preventing long-term weight gain.”

The sixth reason was about our muscles. The article stated that people tend to peak at about the age of 30 years. It mentioned that after the age of 40 you can expect both your muscle mass and your strength to start to fall, with big drops after the age of 70 or so. A very key point was, “There is no age at which you cannot build muscle.” It mentioned a study of some frail adults in their 90’s that were able to get stronger when starting a weight lifting program. The point of lifting is that the exercise has to provide an overload to the muscle. Make it work harder than it is accustomed to.

The seventh reason was a favorite for most people and that was how physical activity affects sleep. “Exercise leads to more sleep, better sleep, and it reduces the number of times that people wake up during the night.” The one point that caught my attention was the long-held belief that you should not exercise near your bedtime. The article said that that belief is not backed up by any data and the time of day that you exercise doesn’t necessarily matter. 

The eighth reason for physical activity benefits was in the category of your life span. The article mentioned that “physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death around the world.” The article said that “any amount of exercise is beneficial.” The example of walking and counting steps was given as an example. “Across the board – men and women, younger and older adults, people from different ethnicities – higher step counts were associated with a lower risk of dying.” “People who took 8,000 steps per day were half as likely to die as those who took 4,000.” Those people that took 12,000 steps per day had a 65% lower risk of dying during a 10-year study. 

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