Exercise and Fitness
Lack of exercise is a serious public health problem in the United States, con- tributing to chronic disease and premature death. Regular physical exercise is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your health and live longer. Each year, millions of Americans experience health problems that could have been prevented or relieved through regular physical activity.
The beneﬁts of exercise are numerous and affect virtually every part of your body. One important ben- eﬁt is that exercise can reduce your risk of develop- ing certain common chronic diseases. For example, regular physical activity has been proven to reduce the risk of premature death from heart disease by preventing its development. Regular daily exercise can make your heart stronger, improve blood ﬂow through the arteries that lead to your heart, and lower the level of cholesterol (see page 89) in your blood.
Exercise also lowers your risk of developing dia- betes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer, and helps to reduce blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure. Exercise helps build and main- tain healthy bones, muscles, and joints and prevents back pain by increasing your strength and ﬂexibility
and improving your posture. Physical activity also helps to decrease your percentage of body fat by pre- serving muscle mass. Exercise helps you lose weight and maintain your loss; this is another way exercise helps you stay healthy and live longer. It can help
The Beneﬁts of Exercise
Exercise—even moderate exercise such as walking briskly—can reduce your risk of major disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure and can help you maintain a healthy weight.Make exercise a regular part of your life.
curb your appetite, and it burns a large number of calories. Regular exercise also helps you sleep better.
The health beneﬁts you gain from exercise are not only physical, they are also psychological. Exercise promotes your sense of well-being by diminishing feel- ings of depression and anxiety. A good workout also can help you better manage the stress in your life (see page 118). When you stick to a regular exercise regi- men you gain a sense of accomplishment that boosts your self-esteem. Also, because physical activity helps you control your weight and look ﬁt, you will feel better about the way you look.
Regular exercise is extremely important for older men because it can increase the strength of muscles, bones, and joints signiﬁcantly, which helps to prevent falls (see page 36), a major cause of disability in older adults. Even if you have been inactive for some time, your strength will improve with exercise, especially strength-conditioning exercises (see next page). Maintaining or improving your strength and ﬂexibility will help you to better perform daily tasks so you can continue to live on your own and maintain a high quality of life as you get older.
While a small amount of exercise is better for you than none at all, the more you exercise, the more you will beneﬁt. Once you start exercising regularly, your capacity for exercise will increase. That means that you will be able to exercise longer and more efﬁciently. If you have been inactive for some time, start with a
30-minute walk each evening before dinner and work gradually up to an hour or longer. If your doctor approves, gradually work your way up to a slow jog, and then a run. The more you work your heart muscle, the more efﬁciently it will pump, and the more health beneﬁts you will gain—for both your body and your mind. Work with your doctor to ﬁnd the best type of exercise regimen for your own personal health proﬁle.