A healthy lifestyle includes not only eating a balanced diet but also scheduling exercise into your daily routine. Being physically active can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Many of these chronic diseases have independent risk factors that can be modified by diet and exercise. What this means is that both diet and exercise are required elements of a healthy lifestyle.
Developing a healthy eating plan without considering your activity level, or initiating an exercise program without taking your diet into consideration isn’t as preventative as including both exercise and diet as part of your healthy lifestyle plan. Exercise is also great for reducing stress and depression, and makes a tremendous contribution to your emotional well-being.
According to Michele M. Doucette, PhD, University Co., Denver, the following health benefits associated with physical activity include:
• Lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol and raising HDL “good” cholesterol—Regular exercise in combination with a low-saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet improve the overall blood cholesterol profile.
• Lowering blood pressure – Exercise can help lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. Elevated blood pressure is an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. Aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
• Reducing excess weight – Obesity, which is a major contributor to the development and maintenance of the diabetic state, is directly affected by exercise. Exercise in combination with a weight-loss program, will accelerate fat loss and maintain lean body mass. If you’re overweight, losing just 5-10 percent of your total body weight can reduce the associated health risks.
• Achieving and maintaining good blood glucose control – Moderate exercise is recommended in the prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes. Exercise is also beneficial in normalizing the altered blood cholesterol profiles associated with Type 2 diabetes.
• Increased energy levels and reduced stress – Active individuals, as compared to sedentary individuals, are more likely to be better adjusted, have improved cognitive function, and experience fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise also improves one’s energy levels, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
• Strengthening bones and toning muscles – Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or jogging is an essential ingredient for achieving and maintaining an adequate bone density. Studies indicate that women who walk at least seven miles per week have higher bone density than women who walk less than one mile per week. Since the effects of exercise on bone integrity are site-specific, it is recommended to do a variety of weight-bearing exercises.
Now that the weather is still warm, make a commitment to take charge of your health today and move toward a healthier lifestyle.
Judy Schmoeger, a longtime resident of Lee’s Summit, is owner and general manager of Anytime Fitness.