5 Ways Exercise Can Help You to Live Longer
We all know it’s important to get off the couch and get active, but there are more tangible health benefits to exercising regularly, thank you!
Think of what 30 minutes really is in relation to the rest of your 24-hour day. It’s a fraction: 1/48th to be exact. Ask yourself—if it meant you have greater agility and energy for everyday tasks, lowered your healthcare costs and gave you a longer, healthier life—would you be able to spare 1/48th of your day?
Mari Leach, a biokineticist at Discovery Vitality, explains why these minutes make all the difference when it comes to living a long, active life.
Exercise reduces disease risks
Getting active and fit has been shown to decrease the risk of a number of lifestyle diseases—and it can also help to manage many of those same diseases. Studies prove that regular exercise can:
- Improve insulin sensitivity, which then reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
- Increase good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease bad cholesterol (LDL)
- Reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque (fatty substances) in our arteries
- Lower the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Improve blood circulation, lowering the risk of stroke
- Strengthen the immune system, lowering susceptibility to illnesses like the common cold, flu and COVID‑19
- Help us “bounce back” quicker after being sick
- Lower the incidence of certain types of cancers, including breast cancer.
Exercise helps with weight management
Maintaining a healthy body weight involves balancing your energy intake from food with your energy output through exercise. We start losing fat when we expend more energy than we consume. So, the best way to tip this equation to lose weight is to reduce the “energy in” by consuming fewer highly processed, energy-dense foods and increase “energy out” through exercise. Focus on consuming nutritionally dense foods to ensure your body has enough fuel for your day and to help you recover from exercise.
Exercise protects your bones
As we get older, the loss of bone mass can lead to serious health problems, such as osteoporosis especially for women in post-menopause. The good news is that the right type of exercise can help slow down this process of losing bone mass, and your skeleton becomes stronger in response to the mechanical loading (e.g. weightlifting) and weight-bearing exercises (e.g. skipping and running) that occur during exercise. Studies have shown that physical activity probably plays a role in the prevention of osteoporosis. Frequent workouts and those involving multiple exercises, including resistance exercises, appear to be more effective.
Exercise is an effective stress buster
Exercising provides a “time out” from the stresses of daily living. The reason is chemical: when we exercise, our body secretes hormones called endorphins that help improve our mood. Other hormones that help us control stress and anxiety—norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin—are also secreted in higher amounts during exercise. Regular physical activity is also a proven intervention to ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Exercise helps you sleep better
People who exercise regularly often experience better sleep than those who do not exercise. Why? Exercise has been shown to reduce sleep onset—that means when your head hits the pillow, you are actually falling asleep instead of going over tomorrow’s to-do list. It also decreases the amount of time you spend awake in the middle of the night, so your quality of sleep improves as well. It can also help to keep you more active and alert during the daytime and, for some people, can reduce their need for sleep medicine altogether.
So, try to swap another habit that eats up 30 minutes of your day— Mari’s is social media use—and think of the many benefits to your health. There’s no reason not to!
Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.