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Written by Karel Nunnink   

 

Getting the Most from Exercise

Exercise is a proven life extender. Literally 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. It is effective in preventing obesity and depression, and it helps people of all ages maintain flexibility, strength, and even independence.

Yet many people who exercise regularly aren’t getting all the benefits they could from their program, and some wonder why they never seem to make any progress at the gym. The fact is, although any sustained exercise is helpful, results are about more than the time spent in a gym or jogging on a treadmill. That’s only half the picture. Nutrition is a critical component of any exercise program, and there are proven ways to maximize your exercise program that you might not hear about from your family physician or from the government.

Proven Benefits of Exercise

Exercise has been shown to increase life span by an average of one to four years for people who engage in moderate to difficult exercise routines (Jonker JT et al 2006; Franco OH et al 2005). Better yet, those additional years will be healthful years 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 MV et al 2002). Exercise may also alleviate depression and enhance self-image and quality of life (Elavsky S et al 2005; Schechtman KB et al 2001).

Exercise has been proven to improve the quality of life in people disabled by diabetes, muscular dystrophy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Stout JR et al 2001; Rochester CL 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 RD et al 2004; Vitartaite A et al 2004; Babyak M et al 2000; Suh MR et al 2002; Church TS et al 2004; Short KR et al 2003; American Diabetes Association 2003; McFarlin BK et al 2004).

Routine exercise contributes to thicker and stronger bones (Martini FH 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 EC et al 2005; Kerr D et al 2001). Older adults with knee osteoarthritis showed improved balance following an exercise regimen of weight training and aerobics (Messier SP et al 2000).

Regular exercise in the childhood and teen years can help ensure healthy bone late in life. Pregnant women can positively influence the size of their infant by means of exercise (Clapp JF III 2003).

 

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