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Health Benefits of Exercise: Reducing Disease Risk

May 9, 2010
Exercise is necessary to remain healthy, as it ties together a lifestyle of proper diet, stress management and social interaction. Our need for regular exercise is encoded into our genes, as our earliest ancestors required short bursts of energy to hunt for food or evade predators.
At the most basic level, our metabolic function and ability to fight off disease is dependent on the food we eat and the amount and type of exercise we provide for our well being. Exercise provides the added benefits of improving mood, boosting energy levels and providing for better sleep. Regular exercise is part of the formula necessary to remain healthy.
Exercise Regularly To Improve Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrate that regular exercise reduces the risk of developing major illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Exercise has a powerful effect on cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, and is viewed as a significant means to lower the risk associated with elevated levels. 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week can reduce triglyceride levels by as much as 40%.
Research is also showing that in addition to traditional aerobic exercise, strength training can have a major impact on cholesterol levels. Short burst resistance training which quickly raises the heart rate and works the major muscle groups can lower total cholesterol and raise the important healthy HDL cholesterol level. Since HDL removes excess cholesterol from the blood, heart disease risk is effectively lowered. Further, this type of exercise helps to regulate blood sugar by helping the body efficiently process glucose into the cells and muscles to be used for energy, thus helping to prevent diabetes.

Exercise is Good for the Heart
Regular physical activity which lasts for at least 30 minutes should be on your schedule for most days of the week. People who follow this lifestyle have reduced blood pressure and a healthier weight. Combined with the blood lipid lowering effects, exercise is essential to heart health.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, and a regular fitness program can be the key to reversing that statistic.
Exercise strengthens the heart muscle and allows the veins and arteries to regain a natural elasticity, resulting in lowered blood pressure. Since the heart does not have to beat as hard or as frequently, the small cracks which begin to form on the inner lining of the arteries from excessive pressure can begin to heal. Combine regular physical activity with a healthy diet of leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts, lean proteins and monounsaturated fats, and the result will be a reversal in coronary plaque and heart attack risk.
Exercise is Good for the Brain
The brain also benefits from a solid exercise program, as the neuronal connections are strengthened through physical activity. Concentration, attention and mood are enhanced with exercise and reaction times are snappier in those people with the highest performance levels. Studies show that new brain cells are developed at a higher rate allowing for improved learning and comprehension with exercise. Additionally, blood flow and oxygen to the brain is improved, resulting in improved memory and lowered risk of stroke.
Regular exercise provides many benefits to our health. The risk of chronic illness from heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer is reduced, along with a lowered incidence of depression and improved mood. A good fitness regime can be started at any point, and should always be combined with a healthy diet for maximum benefit. The end result will be a happier and healthier disease-free life.
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