With the steep rise in chronic diseases today, many of us have turned to a quick fix drug without realizing how powerful a clean diet and exercise can be at managing and preventing many of our most common ailments. While the American College of Sports Medicine and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise, less than half of Americans regularly exercise. These numbers are even lower among elderly individuals who are often discouraged about exercise programs. Only about 15% of Canadians and 30% of Americans have reported to meet the 150 minute time recommendations and about 36% of Americans have reported to have sedentary lifestyles. The lack of both a clean diet and active lifestyle can be pinpointed as the major benefactor for the increase in the chronic diseases present today. Exercise can be a powerful tool for good health and should be more recognized as the holistic medicine that it truly is. How can a new exercise program help you achieve outstanding health?

1. Exercise increases your metabolism!

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Regular exercise effectively increases an enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase as well as the mitochondrial content of fat cells. The combination of these two increase your body’s ability to burn both fat (up to 4-fold!) and calories! Exercise also enhances your ability to conserve amino acids and produce proteins, refining your muscle building skills. More muscle will also not only help amp up your metabolism but also help you trim up to achieve that beach body status.

2. Exercise reduces your risks for disease!

The most striking example of disease prevention through exercise can be seen in people with diabetes. Exercise increases the rate that sugar is taken up by our cells by stimulating more glucose transporters to their membranes. As a result, exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity and is both great for the treatment and prevention of diabetes. By exercising just 150 minutes per week, diabetes risks have been demonstrated to be reduced by 58%! Exercise is also effective at drastically reducing the risks for just about any chronic disease, including cancer, arthritis and heart disease. It effectively reduces inflammation and excess body fat, making it a powerful tool to improve your all around health!

3. Exercise helps you age with grace!

While inactivity increases the progression of muscle loss and weakness as we age, predisposing us for higher fall risks and reduced function later in life, exercise is an excellent way to keep your youth, both mentally and physically. A combination of both strength and endurance exercise is seen to effectively counteract the function declines associated with old age. Regular exercise is an excellent way to maintain a healthy body weight, improve balance, reduce reductions in bone mineral mass while aging, reduce inflammation and improve overall flexibility. As a result, exercise would be a smart addition at any age and it’s never too late to start! Side note, if you have any medical conditions, be sure to check with your doctor before starting up a new exercise program.

4.  Exercise boosts your mental health!

While depression is becoming increasingly common, especially among older individuals where it is predicted to be the most prominent disease by 2020, exercise is also a great way to enhance mental health. It has been demonstrated to improve mood, slow the cognitive decline associated with aging, reduce dementia risks, improve sleep, reduce stress and increase self-confidence. Studies consistently show that active individuals are less likely to have mental health problems. Exercise isn’t only great for staying in shape but is also a drug free way to elevate your mental state.

New to exercise and don’t know where to start?

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Getting started exercising can be a daunting task, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve hit the gym or been on that high school sports team. Rest assured, achieving that 150 minutes isn’t as hard as it seems, and once you get going you’ll only be happy with the improvements you see. A little exercise can be easily incorporated into your daily life without too much of a hassle. For example, try taking the stairs more often or maybe take a walk on your breaks at work. The best way to go is to find something that you enjoy so you’ll stick to it! Intermurals are a great way to reconnect with your inner child, have fun and meet new people. Interested in some group classes? Most colleges and gyms offer some pretty stellar fitness classes that will have you fit in no time. Like the water? Aquafit is a great option; my mom has been doing it for years and has only raved about how much fun it is while being not too hard on her body. Looking for a new sport? There are so many adult leagues available to get you started; it’s never too late to find a new passion (rock climbing anyone?)!

Whether you’re new to exercise or have been on board for a while, there’s really no reason not to take advantage of the health benefits associated with active lifestyles. Exercise is a powerful and free holistic medicine that can go a long way in terms of your quest to a healthy, vibrant and happy life.

References:

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  • Deslandes A. (2013) The biological clock keeps ticking, but exercise may turn it back. Arq Neuropsiquiatr.71(2):113-8.
  • Golbidi S, Mesdaghinia A, and Laher I. (2012) Exercise in the metabolic syndrome. Oxid Med Cell Longev.;349710.
  • Raichlen DA, and Polk JD. (2012) Linking brains and brawn: exercise and the evolution of human neurobiology. Proc Biol Sci;280(1750):20122250.
  • Rivera-Brown  AM, and Frontera WR. (2012)Principles of Exercise Physiology: Responses to Acute Exercise and Long-term Adaptations to Training. PM R.;4(11):797-804.
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  • Yeo WK, Carey AL, Burke L, Spriet LL, and Hawley JA. (2012) Fat adaptation in well-trained athletes: effects on cell metabolism. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab.(1):12-22.

Image Source: lululemonAthletica/Flickr

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