Preventing Chronic Health Problems with Exercise

Did you know that the US spends more than $1.9 trillion every year on health care? In fact more money is spent treating people with chronic diseases that are preventable than is spent on treating cancer. The shocking truth is that more than 45% of Americans suffer from chronic diseases that are preventable.

If you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or have had a stroke, you may feel that that it is impossible to exercise, but that is not the case. Although you may not be able to run a marathon or go to the gym three times a week, there are many forms of activity that almost anyone can do. You just have to find the form of exercise that is right for you.

How Much Exercise is Healthy?
If you are trying to lose weight and improve your health, aim for 2 ½ hours physical exercise every week. That sounds an awful lot, but if you break it down over 7 days, it is just 21 minutes per day. Anyone can find 21 minutes per day to do something they semi-enjoy in order to improve their health.

The Benefits of Exercise
So what benefits can you expect in return for sacrificing 21 minutes of your day? First, you are likely to feel a whole lot better about yourself, just because you have made a positive step towards a new healthier you. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which are responsible for feeling high and happy. It is a great antidote to depression and anxiety and releases stress.
 
Exercise will also boost your immune system, warding off colds, illness and disease and it will generally improve your quality of life in every way. Who can afford to say “no” to all these pluses?

What Exercises Can I do?
Now you understand the reason why we should exercise, you need to find some way of improving your fitness level and burning calories within your physical capabilities.

Exercise falls into four categories: strength, balance, endurance and flexibility. You do not have to be able to run a mile, as these categories illustrate. Many exercises are about building strength, stretching and improving balance. Others increase your heart rate and breathing.

Endurance exercises include:

  • Walking
  • Gardening and yard work
  • Dancing
  • Swimming and Aquarobics
  • Cycling
  • Climbing stairs or walking uphill
  • Racquet games such as tennis, badminton, table tennis, basketball and pickleball

Increasing muscle strength through resistance training can make a big difference to remaining independent as we age. Strength exercises can give the body the necessary strength to carry groceries and climb stairs. Some examples include:

  • Lifting weights
  • Performing stretching exercises using a resistance band

Balance exercises can help prevent falls, which may lead to fractures and hospitalization, a common problem in later life. Try these exercises:

  • Standing on one foot
  • Walking heel-to-toe
  • Tai Chi

Flexibility is important to maintain your freedom of movement, helping your body to stay limber and flexible. Try doing:

  • Shoulder and upper arm stretches
  • Calf stretches
  • Yoga

Pick a selection of exercises from the above lists, one from each group would be ideal, and draw up a plan for how to spend those 21 minutes every day. You will soon be feeling fitter, slimmer and breathing easier as you perform everyday tasks. Hopefully your physician will notice great improvement in your health at your next check-up too!

Sources:
http://www.hollywoodbariatrics.com/surgical-weight-loss-tips/exercise-can-help-chronic-health-conditions
http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-physical-activity-your-everyday-guide-national-institute-aging/chapter-2 
http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-physical-activity-your-everyday-guide-national-institute-aging/chapter-1

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