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The True Health Benefits of Exercise

Exercise. It can improve your health on all levels. We’re not just talking about being fitter and stronger. We’re talking about overall health and longevity.

Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep. And exercise prevents death from any cause (“all cause mortality”).

Convinced yet?

The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. They come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.

You don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health results. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough.

And you don’t have to do a particular kind of exercise. All four types of exercise have health benefits. They are:

  • Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming)
  • Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates)
  • Balance (standing on one foot, Tai Chi)
  • Flexibility (stretching, yoga)

Don't forget, all exercise counts, even if it's not doing a sport or in a gym. Weekend hikes, walking to the store and doing household chores also count towards your weekly exercise goal.

Let me take a minute to prove to you how healthy exercise really is. Here are a few key points.

Exercise for heart health

Exercise reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack.

Regular exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).

Exercise for brain health

Exercise can improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory. It also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the "hippocampus"); this was shown mostly with aerobic exercise.

Exercise for muscle and bone health

Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones; this is particularly true for strength exercises. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly.

PRO TIP: And don’t forget that balance exercises and Tai Chi can help prevent falls.

Exercise for diabetes

People with diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control).

Exercise does this because by contracting your muscles, you’re fueling them with sugar in your blood. This helps to manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise.

Conclusion

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits of exercise.  By doing just 30 minutes 5 days/week, you can vastly improve your health. Since there are different benefits for different types, try mixing up what you do throughout the week. You don’t even need an “official” workout. Walking to the grocery store or doing household chores can count too.

If you’re just starting, then pick something you enjoy, get some accountability (exercise tracker or a buddy), and start.

What’s your favorite exercise and how often do you do it?


Get Motivated…Run for a Cause

Nothing beats waking up in the morning with the natural motivation to go for a run. Let's face it, after a hard days work, sometimes you are just too tired and unmotivated to do something for yourself. Sometimes, just trying to get and stay motivated to run on a regular and consistent basis can be a challenge.

So, you may be wondering just how you can get the motivation you need to run on a regular basis. If you've been wondering what you can do to make exercising more fun, you'll find some ideas below that just may help to make running more fun and a little bit easier.  

  1. Put a support system in place. Start running with a partner such as a good friend or a family member or join a community. It is great to have someone you can share the time with, make each other laugh, have friendly competition and just make the time pass with good conversation during your run. 
  2. Try changing things up.  Change your route or path that you run on.  You can run in your neighborhood, find a nice trail in nature or run along the lake or riverfront. By changing your course, you will break the mundane routine. 
  3. Run for a cause. My friend Tiffany is the co-founder of BFF Run for a Cause where they have created a community of like-minded individuals who complete virtual runs to support different charities.  Talk about motivation...when you sign up to complete a virtual run you will receive a T-shirt and bib to sport on your run, a finisher's medal to add to your many accomplishments and some other cool stuff.....plus they will donate a portion of the registration fee to the designated organization. You can find out more about BFF Run for A Cause and how it works here: http://bit.ly/2m8Q61x

Whatever you decide to do, remember that it is important to find something you love. Find an exercise such as running that will keep you moving your body on a regular and consistent basis. After all The Complete Recipe to optimal health is to EAT, CONNECT and MOVE!

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