Reasons to Exercise (Part 2 of 3)

As promised in yesterday’s post, here is your second set of 10 compelling reasons to finish surfing in cyberspace and get your body moving.

  • Although it won’t take care of hot flashes, exercise can help cope with stress and anxiety that often accompanies menopause.  Researchers have found that not only do the symptoms of menopause drop with as little as 3 hours a week of exercise, but measures of physical and psychological functioning and positive state of mind actually improve.  (We advise friends and partners of menopausal women to exercise, as well, and to always remember that they’re safer teasing a grizzly bear than telling her she’s cranky.)
  • Active individuals have more mitochondria in their muscle cells than their inactive friends (and who wouldn’t want more mitochondria … the power plants of our body’s cells?).  More mitochondria lead to increased fat burning, thus reducing the likelihood of growing “plump.”
  • Regular exercise increases capillary networks tasked with transporting nutrients and hormones to the muscles.
  • The bad news:  Balance and stability deteriorate with age, and more than 33% of people 65 and older fall each year.  In 2000, fall injuries accounted for $19 billion in direct medical costs in the U.S.  The good news:  Simple exercises can reduces the risk of falls and fractures by improving strength, balance and reaction time.  Balance can be taught and improved without a gym membership, fancy equipment, a huge investment in time or even breaking into a sweat.
  • Exercise can ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Although the relationships between anxiety, depression and exercise aren’t fully understood, what is crystal clear is that exercise helps those suffering from these conditions to feel better.  It may be that exercise mitigates the effects of depression by 1.) increasing body temperature, 2.) reducing immune system chemicals or 3.) releasing endorphins.   Whatever the exact mechanism, research shows that moderate exercise is an effective, under-prescribed treatment for mild to moderate depression.  Since a major government study from 2006 reported that less than half of patients become symptom-free on antidepressants even after trying different medications, it’s important to ask a doctor if exercise may, indeed, be all the treatment you need.  Side effects of antidepressants may include nausea, sleep difficulties, drowsiness, decreased sex drive, fatigue, weight gain, weight loss, nervousness, blurred vision, diarrhea, constipation, headache, tremors, dizziness, sweating and dry mouth.  On the other hand, side effects of exercise may include improved self-confidence, increased energy, improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels, ideal body weight, healthy heart and lungs, and reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.  Good grief … this is a no-brainer.
  • A simple and smartly designed exercise program can decrease your likelihood of being sidelined with a back injury.  As the second most common reason people call in sick in the United States, it’s clear that most all of us will experience low back pain it at some point in our lives.  A strong, healthy body is the first line of defense against a low back injury.
  • Regular exercise increases insulin sensitivity.  A lack of insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, can lead to Type 2 diabetes.  A natural decline in insulin sensitivity occurs as we age, so even if you’ve never given a moment’s thought to health issues, making fitness and healthy food choices a priority is something to strive for throughout life.
  • Exercise reduces stroke risk.  In fact, as exercise intensity increases, stroke risk has been shown to decrease!
  • A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (August 2005) found a correlation between how hard women exercise and how long they live.  (Earlier studies already established the exercise-longevity correlation in men.)  What’s the take-home message?  Exercise capacity is a powerful predictor of longevity.
  • Exercise maintains, and can increase, muscle mass.  Because it’s natural to lose muscle mass as we age, it is imperative to maintain physical activity to avoid a decrease in functional ability that contributes to frailty, falls and fractures.  Sarcopenia (yep … it’s a real word) is entropy at work on the human body.  Exercise is the anti-entropy weapon of choice, so take control … fight entropy!  (Remember those droopy, old-man butts that Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland sported in “Space Cowboys?”  It happens to anyone who lives long enough to be considered “mature,” but exercise can mitigate some of the damage!  The “bottom” line?  As trainers with an appreciation for a set of good, strong glutes, we highly encourage those of you still sitting on the fence about whether to exercise or not to seriously consider the implications for your derriere before making a hasty decision.)

Tomorrow we’ll post our third (and final, at least for now) set of 10 Reasons to Exercise.

© Cathy Larripa and KissWorkouts Blog, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cathy Larripa and KissWorkouts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Filed under Health, Motivation and Inspiration, Women's Health

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