I was digging through my files and found an awesome handout that I used to give my clients nearly 20 years ago. This was before everything was digital, so I just have the hard copy and I cannot find it anywhere online anymore! The content is excellent, so I’m re-creating it to share with you!
The primary reason people think they need to exercise is to lose weight. Have you ever told a thin person, “Oh, you don’t need to exercise/worry about what you eat because you are thin already?” Or if you are thin or of normal weight, how many times have you heard that? Or overheard that conversation?
Exercising (and eating healthy) isn’t only for weight loss. Here are a dozen “other” reasons to exercise:
1. Better sleep
Exercise may improve sleep by relaxing muscles, reducing stress and warming the body. A 16 week exercise program (30-40 minutes of brisk walking four times a week) improved the quality, duration and ease of falling asleep in healthy adults in one study.
2. Reduce your chances of gallstones
Active women are 30 percent less likely to have gallstone issues than sedentary women. One study showed that women who sat (at work, driving, etc) more than 60 hours a week were twice as likely to have gallstone surgery than women who sat for less than 40 hours a week.
3. Lower risk of colon cancer
Exercise may lower the prostaglandins (lipid compounds that act like hormones) that promote increased production of cells in the colon, while at the same time raise levels of the prostaglandins that help increase intestinal motility (ie: helps move things along), keeping things nice and cleaned out. You know, isn’t it easier to go to the bathroom after moving around a bit?
4. Lower risk for diverticular disease
One study looked particularly at active vs non-active men and it found that the most protection against diverticular disease (pockets in the wall of the colon that become inflamed) was from vigorous activities like jogging and running, more so than from moderate activities, like walking. There’s no reason to think that the effect would be any different in women!
Regular, moderate exercise has been shown to reduce joint swelling and pain in people who have arthritis by keeping things all nice and lubricated.
6. Anxiety and Depression
Exercise can curb symptoms of anxiety and depression, possibly by releasing natural opiates that make you feel good. Yes, exercise helps your body make something better than drugs that helps you feel great! Sure beats taking opioids in a pill!
7. Heart Disease
One study showed that women who walked the equivalent of three or more hours per week at a brisk pace had a 35% lower risk of heart disease than women who walked infrequently. Exercise boosts the supply of oxygen to the heart muscle by expanding existing arteries and creating tiny new blood vessels. Exercise may also prevent blood clots or promote their breakdown.
8. Blood Pressure
If your blood pressure is already high or high-normal, low to moderate intensity aerobic exercise (like walking), at least three times per week, can lower it. If your blood pressure isn’t high, regular exercise can help keep it that way!
The more you move, the lower your risk of diabetes, especially if you’re already at risk because of excess weight, high blood pressure, or if you have a genetic tendency towards diabetes. In one study, women who walked at least three hours a week had about a 40% lower risk of diabetes than sedentary women.
10. Falls and Fractures
Exercise may prevent falls and broken bones by improving muscle strength, gait, balance and reaction time. Older women assigned to a home-based strength and balance training program had fewer falls than women who didn’t exercise, one study showed.
11. Enlarged prostate
When you hear prostate, you think of men and you are right. However, it was on the list, so I want to include it here (and in case you want to use this argument to get your hubby or significant other out on that after dinner walk!). In one study, men who walked two to three hours a week had 25 percent lower risk of enlarged prostate than men who seldom walked.
Exercise, especially strength-training, can increase bone density in middle-aged and older people. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on exercise and skeletal health!
With the current situation in the world today, I want to make it a dirty dozen and add lucky number thirteen:
13. Boost Immunity
Multiple studies have shown the profound impact that exercise can have on the immune system. Regular bouts of moderate intensity exercise (up to 45 minutes) is beneficial for immunity, particularly in older adults and people with chronic diseases. This is exactly the population most affected by COVID-19.
Case in point?
Obviously, there are many more than 13 health benefits of exercise. Since this information was published, there have been so many more studies supporting the beneficial effects of exercise on these conditions, as well as a diverse range of other health conditions.
The key takeaway is: Exercise is absolutely essential for optimal overall health and wellness, and it doesn’t have to be intense and crazy. Even just getting outside for a walk at a moderate pace on a regular basis is enough to enjoy the benefits for nearly all of the conditions listed above. So find what you enjoy doing, get out there and get moving!