Exercise is a proven life extender. Thousands of clinical trials have documented the benefits of a regular exercise program. It has been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, the leading killer in the United States. Exercise is effective in preventing obesity and depression, and helps people of all ages maintain flexibility, strength, and independence.
Many people who exercise regularly are not getting all the benefits possible from their exercise program. Although any sustained exercise is helpful, results are about more than the time spent exercising. Nutrition is a critical component of any exercise program, and there are proven ways to maximize an exercise program that might not be learned from a family physician or government program.
Proven Benefits of Exercise
Exercise has been shown to increase life span by an average of one to four years for people engaging in moderate to difficult exercise routines (Jonker 2006; Franco 2005). Better yet, those additional years will be healthful because exercise benefits the heart, lungs, and muscles. Even moderate levels of exercise have been documented to stave off many dreaded diseases of aging. Walking briskly for 3 hours per week reduces one’s chances of developing many chronic health problems (Chakravarthy 2002). Exercise may also alleviate depression as well as enhance self-image and quality of life (Elavsky 2005; Schechtman 2001).
Exercise has been shown to improve the quality of life in people with diabetes, muscular dystrophy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Stout 2001; Rochester 2003). Regular exercise can improve blood glucose control, delay or prevent type 2 diabetes, offset age-associated increases in inflammatory cytokines, and reduce cardiovascular risk, diabetes-related mortality, and depression (Goldney 2004; Vitartaite 2004; Babyak 2000; Suh 2002; Church 2004; Short 2003; American Diabetes Association 2003; McFarlin 2004).
Routine exercise contributes to thicker and stronger bones (Martini 1995). Studies of postmenopausal women have shown that exercise produces increased mineral density of bone at the hip and femoral sites, areas with particularly high fracture rates in older people (Cussler 2005; Kerr 2001). Older adults with knee osteoarthritis showed improved balance following an exercise regimen of weight training and aerobics (Messier 2000).
Regular exercise in childhood and teen years can help ensure healthy bones late in life. Also, pregnant women can positively influence the size of their infants through exercise (Clapp 2003).