- Boosts heart and lung capacity
- Gentle on the joints
- Decreases cholesterol levels
- Increases insulin sensitivity (due to water resistance which exercises the muscles)
- Decreases blood pressure
- Decreases bodyfat
- Decreases waist size
- Tones all of the major muscles (e.g., arms, shoulders, hips, legs)
- Relieves joint stiffness
- Decreases joint pain
- Increases joint flexibility
- Relieves chronic lower back pain (due to water buoyancy which reduces spinal stress)
Walking, biking, rowing, and swimming are at the top of the list. All are superb exercises because they are considered low-impact exercises and are therefore easy on the joints. Swimming is ideal for those who are overweight, obese, and/or have osteoarthritis. Swimming is also an excellent exercise for pregnant women. Plus, it's never too late to start! Here are just some of the benefits of swimming:
The health consequences of obesity are astronomical! In fact, clinicians and scientists are discovering more dire risks to mortality regularly due to this disease. This is the one disease that is expected to plague mankind for generations. Interesting how humans have existed for tens of thousands of years and yet only within the last forty years has obesity been a real problem in our society! Could it be the advent of fast food that is prevalent in our culture? Or could it be video games? Or could it be sedentary, cubical occupations which involves sitting in front of a keyboard all day? Or could it be automobiles where we sit in traffic for hours each day? Or could it be a combination of all of the above? Whatever the cause, the problem is deadly serious and the fallout is higher health costs for everyone.
The consequences of being obese include:
High cholesterol, or dyslipidemia, can be characterized by any or all of the following:
Asthma is very common in adults and is characterized by shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest tightening, etc. Asthma is exhibited by an inflammatory response in the airway caused by any of an assortment of factors including infection, exercise, allergies, increased mucus production, emotional stress, cold dry air, air pollution, and certain medications. In essence, the bronchioles (lung airways) narrow due to spasms which restrict airflow to the alveoli (lung air sacs), causing difficulty breathing when inhaling air.
Specific steps to help alleviate asthma include:
Contrary to the past, exercise is highly recommended for women who are pregnant as the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Here are just some of the benefits of exercise that can benefit pregnant women:
Still the most fatal disease in the country, heart disease is caused by excessive plaque within the coronary arteries leading to the heart muscle. The plaque, which consists of mostly cholesterol and fatty deposits, causes an obstruction of the blood supply to the heart. If left untreated, clogged coronary arteries can cause a fatal heart attack.
There are primarily seven positive risk factor for coronary heart disease:
Looking at the above list, the modifiable risk factors are smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes (type-2), and sedentary lifestyle. The most important factor that should be addressed is smoking. It is the one factor that has the most significance in terms of reducing heart disease risk. Eating a healthier diet (e.g., less trans and saturated fat, less sodium, more potassium, less alcohol) and exercising regularly (esp. aerobic exercise) are the other factors that would significantly reduce heart disease risk. Increasing folate, vit B-6, vit B-12, and niacin in your diet can be beneficial. The reality is that if you exercise regularly, you'll less likely to be smoking and have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Exercise will lessen your body weight which will decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as moderate your insulin levels (reducing diabetic symptoms).
Here are the recommended exercise guidelines for those having heart disease:
Contrary to recommendations in the past which indicated rest, nowadays exercise is considered better medicine for those suffering from arthritis. Why is this? Because exercise helps to reduce joint stiffness and pain. For those suffering from the debilitating symptoms of arthritis, it's imperative to resist the urge not to exercise! Why? Because being sedentary will only make your symptoms worse such as more stiffness and pain. Exercise serves to strengthen muscles and protect joint integrity. Contrary to popular opinion, exercise will lessen pain, increase mobility, and help control your bodyweight. Here are recommended exercise guidelines for those with arthritis:
The diagnosis of diabetes is dependent on blood glucose levels (i.e., casual plasma glucose level greater than 200 mg/dl; fasting plasma glucose level greater than 126 mg/dl). One has to be very careful about exercising while having diabetes as blood sugar levels can fluctuate dramatically during periods of intense physical activities. The body of a person with diabetes is not able to readily metabolize sugar because the hormone insulin cannot efficiently transport glucose (blood sugar) into the cells of the body for energy. Either the pancreas cannot produce adequate insulin (Type-1 diabetes) or the cells cannot utilize it properly (Type-2 diabetes). Most people with diabetes have the latter issue in which their pancreas produces enough insulin but due to being overweight or obese, their body's cells have become less insulin sensitive.
Resistance (weight) training, which promotes increased muscle mass, can lower the risk of type-2 diabetes. The latest findings recently published in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism discovered a correlation with increased muscle mass and decreased insulin resistance which is a precursor to diabetes. Researchers found that for every 10% increase in skeletal muscle index (ratio of muscle mass to total body weight), there is an 11% reduction in insulin resistance and a 12% reduction in prediabetes. Prediabetes is the beginning stage of diabetes when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Even if you already have type-2 diabetes, resistance training may play a role in helping to better use the insulin produced. The reason for this is because muscle is a very insulin-sensitive tissue within the body. The more muscle you have, the more glucose your body can metabolize because of increased insulin sensitivity. Besides increasing your muscle mass, an increase in chromium and fiber intake will also help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Diabetes is an insidious disease as the symptoms run the gamut (e.g., blurred vision, excessive thirst, tremors, extremity numbness, frequent urination, confusion, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, extreme hunger, anxiousness, headaches, etc.) but it can be treated or even prevented by proper exercise. Recent research in Neurology has indicated that type-2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. A sedentary lifestyle is certainly a risk factor for diabetes due to the increased fat storage and decreased muscle mass that occurs. Some of the benefits of exercise with regard to diabetes include:
Optimal blood pressure is 115/75 and should be the goal for all people. If your blood pressure is at or above 140/90, you are in the hypertensive range and need to make some lifestyle changes if you want to live long enough to enjoy your grandchildren. Harsh? Perhaps, but so is dying needlessly due to poor lifestyle choices (e.g., eating high-fat sugary foods regularly, being sedentary). Here are my recommendations to get you on the right path to living a healthy life:
Should you exercise even though you are older than 65 years of age and if so, what are the exercise guidelines?
Absolutely! In very rare instances would it be contraindicated to exercise when of advanced age (e.g., severe coronary heart disease, arrhythmia, uncontrolled hypertension, acute myocarditis, and/or thrombosis). The benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks. As we get older, such things as agility, balance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, muscular strength and endurance, motor coordination, power, speed, and mobility become much more important. Not surprisingly, most if not all of these things can be maintained via regular physical activity (esp. resistance exercise). Many of the physiological changes that occur as a result of both aging and inactivity (e.g., muscle atrophy, decreased bone density, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, insomnia, incontinence, etc.) can be ameliorated by exercise. The majority of major lifestyle-related diseases (e.g., type-2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, colon cancer, etc.) can be prevented by regular exercise. Exercise can provide the strength, vigor, endurance, and flexibility in older adults comparable to those who are thirty years younger. In addition, and probably most importantly for most seniors, regular exercise decreases one's dependence on others for everyday activities (e.g., shopping, cooking, etc.). Just last month a study was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (July 6th, 2011) regarding how much resistance training exercise is needed for older adults compared to younger people. The study found that older adults (60-75 years of age) need to exercise more than younger people (20-35 years of age) in order to maintain muscle mass.
If you haven't exercised for quite some time, here are the exercise guidelines: