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Health Benefits of Exercise


The sedentary lifestyle of the modern world, eating too much and exercising too little, has a negative effect on our health. Today’s children will be the first generation to not live longer than their parents. This is definitely in part due to the over-consumption of fast-food and processed food. However, it’s also because of our physically inactive lifestyle, the type of jobs we keep, and our leisure activities such as the Internet. Incorporating exercise in our daily routine will go a long way to help lead a disease-free and long, happy life.


In New Zealand over half the population is either overweight or obese. The negative effects of being overweight are countless, including the increased risk of coronary heart disease and diabetes. Incidences of both are increasing. In New Zealand, the biggest killer of people is heart disease. Exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular function and heart health. Walking at a moderate intensity on a regular basis can reduce the risk of heart attacks by up to 40 percent.


Exercise can decrease the risk of developing diabetes and help control its severity for people who already have diabetes. Moderate exercise helps control the levels of blood sugar in the body, reducing the levels of the hormone insulin. Losing weight also helps the body use insulin. Exercise helps to control weight by burning calories and increasing the body’s metabolism. Also, exercise can reduce the cholesterol levels, especially the “bad” cholesterol that can cling to artery walls and cause an increase in blood pressure and the chance of coronary heart disease.


Arthritis and osteoporosis can be prevented or reduced with exercise. Cartilage in the joints needs movement to deliver oxygen and nutrients around. This helps to maintain one of the building blocks of the body “collagen.” As we get older, the levels and quality of collagen reduce, leading to pain and brittleness in joints. Exercise is especially important in building bone density and improving balance to reduce the severity of falls later in life. Resistance training helps build bone density and strengthens ligaments and bones.


To gain the benefits of exercise for your health, try doing 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week. Moderate intensity should an effort of 6 or 7 out of 10. This could be a brisk walk or a light aerobics class. Doing something’s always better than nothing. Try changing small habits of your lifestyle such as walking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or doing chores such as cleaning, mowing or gardening. To increase the strength of joints and bones, try doing some resistance training. Do exercises that are load bearing and use a lot of muscles, such as squats and lunges. This will help build bone density and prevent osteoporosis and arthritis. Include these tips in your lifestyle and you will gain the heart protecting benefits of exercise. Good luck and here’s to your good health!