Physical Health

chapter8

It is commonly accepted that exercise – or activity, as I prefer to call it – is one of the best ways to improve your health and manage stress. Simply by adding a little movement to your life you can maintain flexibility, keep healthy bone mass, improve your mood, and ultimately even prevent heart disease. As Lynn Swann, former chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, emphasizes, “It’s never too late to move for health.” It has been shown that people who take up exercise at age seventy-five and quit smoking could add two years to their lives. It may take as little as thirty minutes a day, five days a weekto decrease your chances of heart disease, colon cancer, high blood pressure, or diabetes. However, if exercise is to become a part of your life, it should not be something you dread doing: adding activity to your lifestyle is not about drastic change, but rather about taking small steps to move your body in a way that is enjoyable to you. Most of all, avoid overly strenuous exercise – like walking too long or too far – to enhance your enjoyment. It really doesn’t matter what kind of activity you engage in: The most important choice is whether you decide to be active at all. Experts agree that some activity, even a minimal amount, is better than none at all.

There are innumerable benefits, both physical and mental, to be gained from daily activity. Here is a list of some of them:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce stress
  • Relieve depression and anxiety
  • Reduce risk of heart disease and certain cancers
  • Boost your mood
  • Give you more energy
  • Help you sleep better
  • Increase bone density
  • Strengthen your heart and lungs
  • Improve your quality of life

In fact, a good walk has been shown to be good for your head. According to Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at University of California, LosĀ  Angeles (UCLA) Center on Aging, if the heart pumps more blood, it affects the brain because nutrients and oxygen-rich blood are being carried throughout the cells, thus improving brain function. Repetitive movement can actually stimulate certain areas of the brain, including the subcortical area, that is related to cognitive function – in other words, how well we think. Walking and talking is even better because the brain is engaging in a number of activities at the same time. In a 2008 issue of the Harvard Health Letter, it was reported that physical activity can both delay cognitive decline into dementia and even improve certain aspects of thinking.

Walking is the best possible exercise.
Thomas Jefferson

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