Although exercise is often thought of as a means of losing weight, its positive impact on overall physical and mental health extends far beyond weight loss.
Research has demonstrated the numerous benefits of exercise for individuals of all ages and across a range of health conditions. Despite this, many people today lead busy lifestyles and are often sedentary for prolonged periods of time due to factors such as driving, office work, and leisure activities like watching television.
As a result, exercise is often given a low priority in their lives. Today we look at the connection between fitness and disease prevention and what you can do to stay healthy and active.
Exercise and its role in disease prevention
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), engaging in regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining good health. It can enhance various aspects of your well-being, such as:
Manage your weight
Help prevent disease
Strengthen your body
Improve your functional movement
The benefits of physical activity on brain health are immediate, resulting in improved cognition for children and reduced feelings of stress for adults. As you age, regular physical activity can help keep your judgment, learning, and decision-making skills sharp while also boosting your mood and improving your sleep.
Five ways exercise can help prevent disease
Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is crucial for achieving optimal health. There are not many lifestyle choices that have as significant an impact on your health as exercising. Regardless of age, abilities, ethnicity, socioeconomic bracket, or current fitness level, everyone can experience the health benefits of physical activity.
1Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight
Exercise and a nutritious diet are essential components of maintaining weight. One key factor in achieving this goal is balancing the calories consumed and the calories expended through physical activity. While many factors contribute to obesity, in most cases, weight gain is caused by excessive calorie intake and a lack of exercise.
It’s important to note that a significant portion of an individual’s daily caloric requirement is used for basal metabolism and food digestion. However, physical activities can account for 15 to 40 per cent of the calories burned daily. While high-intensity exercise will burn calories faster, engaging in any form of exercise will help to burn calories.
For instance, a person weighing 140 lbs or 63 kg can burn 175 calories by cycling at moderate intensity for 30 minutes or 322 calories by jogging at moderate intensity for the same period.
By exercising regularly and adopting a healthy diet, individuals can effectively maintain a healthy weight and avoid the negative health consequences of being overweight or obese.
2Exercise and cardiovascular disease
It is no secret that heart disease and stroke are responsible for many fatalities globally. However, there is good news: you can take steps to lower your risk of developing these life-threatening conditions.
For example, engaging in moderate-intense exercise has been shown to effectively reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, being active can help lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels, both major risk factors for these diseases.
According to one study, individuals who engage in the highest levels of physical activity have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease by 48 to 57%. Those who engage in the most rigorous exercise have an even more significant decrease, ranging from 54 to 63%
3Exercise and type 2 diabetes
Incorporating regular exercise into one’s daily routine can positively affect overall health, particularly for those with type 2 diabetes. Not only can consistent exercise help to lower blood sugar levels, but it can also play a significant role in weight management and improving overall energy levels.
Additionally, for those with type 2 diabetes, engaging in regular physical activity can actively reduce the risk of heart disease-related mortality. However, it’s important to note that even individuals who maintain a healthy weight should strive to continue doing so.
Studies have shown that even modest weight gain can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by two-fold, with weight gain of 11 to 18 pounds correlated with an elevated risk. Therefore, individuals need to consciously prioritise healthy lifestyle choices, including regular exercise and mindful eating habits, to maintain optimal health and wellness.
4Exercise and bone health
Maintaining a regular exercise routine is crucial for various aspects of your health, including muscle strength, joint health and function, and bone health. Weight-bearing exercises are especially important for normal skeletal development during childhood and reaching maximum bone mass in adults.
One study found that jumping 10 to 20 times daily with 30 seconds of breaks between jumps improved hip bone mass density in women aged 25 to 50 by 75%.
It’s clear that regular exercise, including resistance training, can help protect older individuals against falling and fractures. Furthermore, exercise has been shown to offer benefits to those with arthritis, making it an excellent choice for improving health and well-being.
5Exercise and longevity
Regular exercise has been found to substantially decrease the likelihood of premature death caused by illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Adding just 10 minutes of moderate-to-high-intensity exercise to their daily routine could potentially prevent approximately 110,000 deaths yearly among American adults. This highlights the importance of incorporating exercise into your daily regimen for improved health and longevity.
Increasing the number of daily steps can reduce the risk of premature death. According to recent studies, individuals below 60 can experience a reduced risk of premature death by walking around 8,000 to 10,000 steps daily. For senior citizens aged 60 and above, the risk can be mitigated by walking approximately 6,000 to 8,000 steps daily.
How much exercise do you need?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most healthy adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week.
This can be spread over a week and include any form of exercise that increases your heart rate. It’s important to note that any exercise is better than none, and even short periods of physical activity throughout the day can add significant health benefits.
If you’re looking for a safe and effective way to work in exercise, consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This type of workout involves short bursts of intense activity followed by periods of rest and can be customised to your fitness level. Additionally, strength training exercises for all major muscle groups should be done at least twice weekly.
This can include weightlifting, resistance band exercises, or bodyweight exercises like push-ups and squats. Incorporating aerobic and strength training exercises into your routine can improve your overall health and fitness.
Sum it up
The impact that physical activity has on disease prevention, mental health, and social well-being is incredibly significant. It affects every aspect of our lives and should never be underestimated.
Though it is important to note that physical activity is not a standalone solution for disease prevention and should not be viewed as a replacement for professional treatment, it does play a vital role in maintaining physical and cognitive well-being.
Whether you choose to be active today or tomorrow, every action counts towards achieving your recommended physical activity goals and will positively impact both the mind and the body.
In addition to preventing physical health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and other related risks, it is critical to recognise the positive impact that physical activity has on all areas of our health and well-being.
Want to learn more?
In this informative podcast, Dr. Peter Attia, M.D. discusses the best ways to assess health status using routine blood work, body scans, and physical tests. He explains how cholesterol affects cardiovascular disease risk and suggests ways to monitor and mitigate that risk.
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