Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Exercise Your Way to a Better Life

We’ve been told this for years, and we still don’t get it: to live long and well, we must exercise. There’s just no substitute. Dieting and maintaining a healthy weight are great, but they’re not enough. Exercise does things for the mind and body that diet cannot do, that nothing else can. Let me share just a few ways you’ll benefit from regular exercise. See if you can get excited enough about just one to get you going.

1. Exercise can reduce your risk of cancer or improve your prognosis if you do develop it. As the people I know age, I learn of new cancer diagnoses almost every week. The risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, pancreatic cancer, and several blood forming cancers are all affected by exercise, either directly or indirectly through weight management. Strive to do the highest level of aerobic exercise that you can manage safely and will continue with, since some cancer risks are reduced only with moderate to vigorous exercise.

2. Exercise creates new brain cells. As baby boomers age, more people are becoming interested in maintaining their cognitive abilities. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates new brain cell growth and the connections between them. It also increases the supply of BDNF, a protein that promotes the growth of nerve cells and synapses that enhance memory and learning. Last year I lost my father after watching both these capacities diminish in him for the past few years. It was a painful experience for both of us and something I’d like to see us all avoid.

3. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity. As we age or put on weight (or both, as many people do), our bodies become less insulin sensitive, increasing our risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In this case, both aerobic exercise and strength training will garner these benefits provided you exercise at least every other day.

Exercise is a simple and inexpensive approach to minimizing your risk of cancer, memory loss, and diabetes – three major health issues threatening the quality of life for millions of Americans. Join me next time for even more reasons to get off that couch and away from the computer.

Source: Nutrition Action December 2009

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