Exercise for Better Health: benefits, guidelines & prevention

From io9.com

Picture source: io9.com

We’ve all heard this one before. I’ve been hearing it all my life from my parents. “Exercise is good for you honey…” “You have to exercie every day big guy…” And for half of my life I just listened blindly as if this was some religious cult. I never really bothered asking how or why I should do this. Only when I turned 14-15 years old did I enter the realm of thinking more abstractly about exercise. I started to ask questions like “how does this help me” and “why should I really do it.” Apparently I am one of the minority who came out of this philosophical debate conviced that I should exercise since according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control):

  • Less than half of all Americans meet the daily standards of exercise recommended by the CDC (and these are some lenient standards to be discussed below).
  • Only 30% of high school students achieve the 60 minutes of exercise a day recommended by the CDC.

And the recommendations:

  • At least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise; spread out however you desire.
  • Of these 150 minutes, 60 should be spent doing strengthening exercises like push-ups, free weights, Yoga, squats, etc. The other 90 in aerobic (or just 150 minutes of mixed exercises that offer both).

Going back to the first recommendation bullet we can see the word Moderate. This can be interpreted in many different ways. Does walking up 2 flights of stairs everyday to work count as Moderate? Does parking your car in the farthest parking spot from your destination lead to a nice little session of Moderate exercise? The answer to this is Yes; as long as you feel an increase in your heart rate and breathing rate as a result of this brisk walk! Lets not get too excited about this realization, though. This does NOT mean your done for the day. If it takes you 5-10 minutes of brisk, heart rate altering, respiration exhausting, leg burning minutes to walk up the stairs to your office… that’s exactly the amount of time that should be subtracted from your 150 minute total… Gasping for air in your office chair for 10 extra minutes while you recover does not count… nor does every walk to the bathroom… or your casual trot to the lunch room with colleagues. The importan thing to remember is that we DO NOT need to schedule five 30 minute sessions of exercise into our already hectic schedule (which seems to be the biggest issue people bring up when they claim to have no time to exercise)… we can meet the standard 5-10 minutes at a time throughout the week. Jaime Foxx, for example, revealed to Men’s Health Magazine that this is the way he rolls. Every time he finds himself doing nothing he drops down and does 20-30 push-ups… this can be in his bathroom floor, in between film takes, or even while watching television. Every little set adds up and by the end of the week he has more than met all the requirements for exercise. These are just some ideas about how to stay motivated. Set a time goal and meet it… one minute at a time.

In terms of why we should exercise the reasons are just incredibly numerous. Some of the more popular ones mentioned by the CDC:

  • Helps control weight.
  • Helps lower the incidence of cardiovascular events and some cancers; the two leading causes of death in the United States.
  • Lowers the risk of developing type II Diabetes by decreasing Insulin resistance.
  • Helps control sugar levels in already Diabetic people.
  • Helps control blood pressure.
  • Helps lower strees.
  • Helps us sleep better.
  • Helps relieve back pain (the #1 cause of missed days at the job).
  • Helps increase our energy level.
  • Help reduce your risk of developing gallstones (which affects up to 20% of people).
  • Etc.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of benefits of exercise. The list is quite long, but it gives us some idea of the power exercise has. It was even recently discovered that a hormone called Irisin is released in our body during exercise and this hormone may have profound effects on our tolerance to glucose (it helps us absorb it better in our cells and hence lowers the risk of developing Diabetes) as well as our capacity to burn fat more effectively not only during exercise, but in everyday life. This is to say that it may increase our basal metabolic rate, or the rate at which our body burns energy (and fat) at rest. So exercise does not just help us lose the calories we shed DURING the session; it also helps our body more effectively burn fat when we are NOT exercising.  So next time you find yourself sitting in the couch, looking into the void of thoughtlessness and just… being… go crazy and do 5 push ups… it may help you in more ways than you imagine.

For more information on Irisin check out one of our earlier posts on the subject: https://healthyhappyandwhole.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/some-excercise-is-much-better-than-none/

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