Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Second “No-Brainer” for Optimum Health

Last time we looked at the first of two universally held recommendations to reduce your risk of almost every known disease: not smoking. Have you guessed what the second is? It’s exercise. For years I’ve read a variety of wellness publications and repeatedly exercise appears the top of the list of things we can do to prevent illness.

When you think about it, it’s not too surprising. Aerobic exercise improves the ability of the lungs, heart, and blood vessels to deliver adequate amounts of oxygen to the cells to meet the demands of physical activity. So we’re back to talking about oxygen, the life force I wrote about last time. Quitting smoking and exercising both enhance the body’s ability to use oxygen.

Aerobic or cardio exercise also strengthens the heart muscle, which means the heart is able to pump more blood per beat, so it has to beat less often to supply oxygen to the body. This results in the heart working less hard, potentially enabling it to last longer. I like to compare the heart to a machine, such as a photocopier. The fewer copies run on a machine, the longer the machine lasts. So in a very real sense, aerobic exercise is strength training for your most critical muscle – the heart.

While volumes have been written about the benefits of exercise, one worth highlighting for its ability to lower our risk of disease is that it helps us maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity are correlated to virtually every major disease and they make the heart work harder, exactly the opposite of our goal!

I love to be active and regularly incorporate aerobic activity, strength training, and stretching in my daily routine. Let me know if you need some help creating an exercise habit you’ll love so you can achieve your optimum health.

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