I used to think when trying to lose weight that exercise and diet were about equal in terms of their impact on my results. I can even remember thinking when I first started exercising that my efforts would instantly result in at least a 3 kg (7 pound) weight loss!
Imagine my disappointment on discovering that what I eat and drink is FAR more important than exercise.
One of the problems is that we are often tempted to reward our exercise efforts with a treat. Most of my workouts these days burn around 300 calories. With a can of coke containing around 160 calories and an iced chocolate containing up to 600 calories, using ‘rewards’ like this is a quick and effective way to sabotage our weight loss efforts. Then we wonder why our attempts to turn over a new leaf aren’t working!
That being said, over a week six 300 calorie workouts means 1800 calories burned which CAN make a difference.
Why bother exercising if a measly cold drink can negate all that sweat and energy expenditure?
Exercise is AMAZING in its impact on our health and wellbeing. If it was a pill, we’d all be demanding it instead of being a society of couch potatoes. Currently less than half of all Australians exercise enough for health benefits, with around 15% of Australians not doing any exercise at all. The figures in the USA are as bad or worse.
Having once been part of the 15% of Aussies who never exercise, I can honestly say that the first steps you take will be the hardest. Nowadays even though motivation comes and goes, I try and view exercise like cleaning my teeth – it is just something that gets done.
Let’s look at seven ways that exercise can improve our health.
1. Lowers blood pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the arteries as it is pumped around the body by the heart. High blood pressure (or hypertension) can lead to a heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. There is good evidence that regular aerobic exercise will lower blood pressure. A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 and if you have diabetes or are at risk of diabetes, it should DEFINITELY be below 130/80.
2. Reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke
There is a strong relationship between the amount of activity we do and our risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Heart attacks and strokes kill more Australians than any other disease group and those who are the least active have double the risk. With diabetes, this risk is also greater so exercise is even more important.
3. Reduces the risk of some cancers
There is evidence that regular exercise may reduce the risk of a range of cancers including bowel, breast, ovarian, pancreatic and lung cancer. There is also some evidence that regular exercise can reduce the risk of some cancers recurring.
4. Counteracts muscle loss
After forty, we lose 3-5% of muscle mass every ten years. The good news is that we can increase our muscle mass at any age. In one study participants aged up to 98 years lifted weights three times a week and increased their muscle mass by 2.7%. This means less falls and more independence.
Kind of takes away our excuses doesn’t it?
5. Strengthens our bones, increases our joint mobility and our flexibility.
In short, exercise helps us to stay active and healthy to really ENJOY our lives.
6. Makes us feel better
Exercise reduces our risk of developing depression and can be as effective as antidepressants in the treatment of depression. Being active lifts our mood, we sleep better and are more energetic.
7. Lowers our risk of developing diabetes
Staying active is one way that we can reduce our risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you already have type 2 diabetes, regular exercise helps to maintain your blood glucose levels in the normal range.
Quite an impressive list, isn’t it?
There are lots of ways that we can add exercise into our lives. I enlisted the help of a personal trainer to keep me motivated and I was able to learn how to perform particular exercises without risking injury. An exercise program should contain aerobic, strength and flexibility elements.
It is also recommended that if you are over 40, have a pre-existing medical condition or haven’t exercised for a long time that you check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
If you have diabetes, you may benefit from a referral from your doctor to an exercise physiologist and in some areas, this might be subsidised.
Is exercise already part of your life or is 2012 going to be the year that you really start to put your health first?
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Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and photo stock.