The 10 Benefits of Exercise

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You are never too old to start exercising. Research shows that even people who start exercising in their 80’s and 90’s experience health benefits. A study published by the International Journal of Stroke found that people between the ages of 40 to 59 – who started a fitness routine – cut their risk of a deadly stroke in half. Check below for the top 10 benefits of exercising:

  1. Strengthens the heart. The heart is a muscle and like all muscles, it improves and gets stronger with exercise.  Regular exercise helps the heart become more efficient and better able to ward off heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Lowers blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by clearing arteries and veins, and reducing the amount of harmful cholesterol and fat in the blood.
  3. Helps control body weight. Exercise and physical activity burn calories. To maintain your weight, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), recommends a regular routine of moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. That is a little over 20 minutes of exercise per day.
  4. Reduces blood sugar level and risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to use its insulin efficiently, which causes elevated levels of blood sugar. According to the CDC, being active helps you regulate your insulin and maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
  5. Improves brain function. What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. When we exercise, it increases the heart rate, which pumps oxygen, blood, and nutrients to the brain. These chemical reactions repair and protect brain cells from degeneration and stimulate growth of new brain cells. This results in improved memory, concentration and cognitive function.
  6. Helps reduce the risks of certain chronic conditions like cancer and type 2 diabetes.
  7. Improves sleep habits. Lack of sleep impairs one’s ability to reason, problem-solve, and pay attention to details.  According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), sleep helps restore the brain by removing toxins like beta-amyloid from the brain. Beta-amyloid a primary marker of Alzheimer’s disease.
  8. Promotes a feeling self-confidence and well-being (reduces stress and anxiety). When you exercise, your body has a chemical reaction that releases several feel-good hormones like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine.
  9. Increases bone density, which decreases the chance of developing osteoporosis (a condition of weak and brittle bones).
  10. Reduces incidence of accidental falls and helps maintain mobility.

To learn more about exercise and physical activity for older adults, visit the National Institute of Aging (NIA) website to view workout videos and the Go4Life exercise campaign.

Write to Chrishun Brown at Chrishun_m_brown@rush.edu

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