It’s no secret that exercise is good for your health, but you may be surprised to learn just how far-reaching these benefits can be. We are all familiar with the classic gym stereotypes of toned muscles and trim waistlines, but there’s certainly more to it than just weight loss and physical appearance when it comes to physical activity. There is a wealth of scientific research supporting the notion that regular physical activity can have a huge impact on the prevention and management of many health conditions. These health conditions include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, anxiety, depression, and many more.
Now, I’m sure each of us has been impacted in some way by one of the above conditions, so we would all be inclined to try and limit any further experiences with them, right? Of course, there is no way to guarantee a life free from illness and ailment there are certainly ways that we can better our odds when it comes to chronic illness. While each of the above conditions differs vastly in their symptoms, their prognosis and their anatomy and physiology, they do share a lot of common risk factors. Some of these primary risk factors include tobacco use, alcohol use, diet, and exercise, each of which are variables that can be changed and manipulated with the right guidance and effort. My hope in writing this week’s column is to better educate you on the positive effects and benefits that can come when we manipulate the exercise variable and move away from sedentary behaviour.
Here in New Brunswick, especially, we need to start heeding these warnings, acknowledging the risk factors, and then actually acting on them! In New Brunswick we have some of the worst health statistics in the country; we are over 5% higher than the national average when it comes percentage of the population living with obesity (20%) and high blood pressure (19.8%) and we are near the top of the list when it comes to the percentage of active tobacco users (21.2%). In line with our above average health statistics, we have an over-burdened provincial healthcare system with our hospitals and facilities consistently operating over their capacities.
But alas, exercise can help! As alluded to above, exercise can play a huge role in reducing risk for many chronic illnesses. Exercise has been proven to help lower and manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels, to help reduce body weight and body mass index (BMI) and to help prevent and manage diabetes. Exercise can also play a huge role in the prevention and management of psychological illnesses like stress, anxiety, and depression by creating chemical changes in the brain and the bloodstream. Reducing risk factors like high blood pressure, stress, and high cholesterol can then act two-fold by going on to further reduce your risk for stroke or cardiac events.
In summary, the benefits of exercise go far beyond strength gain and physique, rather it can also serve to improve and maintain your health and longevity. So, as a start point, I challenge you to enjoy this beautiful time of year and get outside for a 20-minute walk each day. Taking small steps like this for yourself and for your overall health can make a huge difference! Stop making excuses, stop putting it off, and please don’t wait until it’s too late to act; it’s easier to prevent than it is to cure!
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