It’s 2018 and there is still a terrible misconception regarding exercise and activity or the absence thereof. This was typified this past week when a consultation came into my office. Yonah is age 49. He came to talk about a few health issues he is having. Fatigue, tiredness, pre-diabetes and borderline high blood pressure. Yonah is NOT overweight. We briefly spoke about things like overall diet and particularly hydration and fruit and vegetable consumption. And then I asked Yonah about his daily exercise routine and about his activity in general. He said that “I’m not fat, what do I have to exercise for?” I tried to explain that exercise is not just for the overweight and obese, it’s actually a vital part of maintaining good health for everyone regardless of weight. He looked surprised, but his reaction didn’t surprise me.
Over the last few decades we have made a lot of progress in getting more and more people to include exercise as part of their lives. But still only about 20% of people in western countries exercise according to minimal standards. Yet those who do exercise and search for ways to be active end up with countless benefits to their health and increase their odds greatly against countless diseases—both in the realm of physical and mental health. When we do inculcate good heathy behaviors into our everyday life, we cut the odds of illness and disease substantially. So when you start walking briskly 6 days a week, build some muscle twice a week and change to healthier eating (and as a consequence, lose some weight if needed) you improve your likelihood of a better life. Let’s take a closer look at what decades of research has shown us about making exercise a priority in our lives, and review the multiple advantages an exerciser has in his/her battle against the myriad of illnesses and diseases that can strike at a moment’s notice.
- If you are pre-diabetic or have a history of diabetes in your family and you exercise, you cut down the odds of getting diabetes by 58%!
- A study followed 10,000 alumni from Harvard University showed that the risk of premature death went down 23% for exercisers.
- Do you have osteoarthritis? If you’re older and have some of those aches and pains, particularly in your knee and you start walking 6 days a week, your pain and disability can be reduced by up to 47%. That’s right—without painkillers. So if you do that, your reliance on medicine for pain reduction becomes substantially less.
- Exercise plays a key role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s. Even if someone is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, exercise can slow progress by 50%–that is a very significant number.
- For people with anxiety, you can reduce your anxiety by 48%
- For depressed people moderate exercise relieves symptoms in 30% of patients and for those who could be more intense in their workouts, 47% got out of their depressive state.
- Do you suffer from fatigue? Exercise is the primary treatment for that too.
- Exercise can help you quit smoking. Exercise may make it easier to quit smoking by reducing your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can also help limit the weight you might gain when you stop smoking.
- It helps keep your thinking, learning, and keeps your judgment skills sharp as you age.
- It strengthens your bones and muscles.
- It reduces your risk of some cancers.
- It reduces your risk of falling.
- It can improve your sleep
- Most of all, the strongest predictor of death is plain and simple, low cardio-respiratory fitness
New research is coming out all the time verifying previous findings. We also know that exercisers are less likely to get a common cold that those who don’t exercise. It is a key ingredient in keeping our immune system functioning as well as possible. And now we find out that its relationship in weight loss and weight control is more than just expending calories.
One of the many reasons we are eating more than ever is that our hormones that control hunger and feeling full are not functioning properly. There are a few theories as to why it takes 20 minutes after we are full for our brain to send that signal to our stomach so we stop eating. One of them is the mass consumption of foods with high fructose corn syrup. But whatever the reason, it is causing overconsumption. Very recent research examined the fact that as people lose weight through standard diet, hunger increases due to the fact that the hunger hormone ghrelin increases and satiety decreases. But after exercise-induced weight loss, hunger hormones also rise, but satiety climbs as well. This may be a key reason why people who are losing weight together with exercise are more likely to sustain their losses.
So here we have all the reasons in the world to make exercise a part of our life. You might want to ask yourself if there is any really good reason not to exercise. Just today, an older woman who is doing well in our program said that she really gets no great satisfaction from exercise. She looks at the whole thing as a big bother and doesn’t enjoy it. We examined various modes of aerobic exercise and we decided that it’s more enjoyable for her to exercise in a group setting than to do things on her own. She signed up for a group fitness class 3 times a week and walks (even though she doesn’t like it that much) three other days
It’s good to compare exercise to medicine you might have to take on orders from your doctor I take it every day as directed even though I don’t like the taste. There are plenty of day I don’t enjoy it. But when I am done with a session I feel really good. More important, it keeps my health in check and it will keep your health in a good place also. The research bears this out beyond a doubt. It might be the most important prescription you every fill.
Yona decided to heed my advice and we worked on a home exercise program. He built up gradually and methodically and it was only 4 weeks later that he really started seeing benefit. He found renewed energy, his sugar went way down and his doctor decided to hold off on blood pressure medication. Yonah didn’t invest any money in order to execute his new program yet it increased the quality of his life and probably will extend his life also. So, why all the excuses? Time is still the number one reason people give for not exercising. But getting sick or sitting in doctor’s offices takes even more time. Exercise will actually give you more time and it will “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.