Exercise. It can improve your health on all levels. We’re not just talking about being fitter and stronger. We’re talking about overall health and longevity. And that is so important as we age. Remember, most women today are going to live to a median age of 87. I don't know about you but I want to stay as healthy and strong as I can, for as long as I can. I want the next 25-30 years to be good ones. How about you?
In fact, my 81 year old mother is walking more and more these days, now that she has trekking poles. One of her biggest concerns was her balance, and now that she uses the poles on her walk around the neighborhood she feels more stable, hence she is walking more. And today she shared with me that since she has been walking every other day, she doesn't feel as stiff any more. All around win, wouldn't you say?
Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep.
The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. They come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.
You don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health results. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough. The regimen I most often start my coaching clients on is 3 days of brisk walking for 30 minutes, especially if they have been sedentary.
You will want to include exercises that increase your:
Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming)
Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates)
Balance (standing on one foot, Tai Chi)
Flexibility (stretching, yoga)
Don't forget, all exercise counts. Weekend hikes, walking to the store and doing household chores all count towards your weekly exercise goal. And by all means, set a goal. In fact the easiest way to do this is to 1) schedule it and 2) have an exercise buddy for accountability.
Exercise for heart health
Exercise reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack.
Regular exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).
Exercise for brain health
Exercise can improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory. It also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the "hippocampus"); this was shown mostly with aerobic exercise.
Exercise for muscle and bone health
Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones; this is particularly true for strength exercises. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly.
PRO TIP: And don’t forget that balance exercises and Tai Chi can help prevent falls. Try to balance on one leg, or close your eyes and keep your balance. These tricks work and
Exercise for diabetes
People with diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control).
Exercise does this because by contracting your muscles, you’re fueling them with sugar in your blood. This helps to manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise.
As the weather improves and we can comfortably get outside, I hope you start walking, hiking, biking or joining in an activity that keeps you moving this Spring.
What’s your favorite exercise and how often do you do it?
Recipe : Post-workout Coconut Water Refresher
1 cup coconut water
2 cups watermelon
½ tsp lime juice
1 dash salt
1 cup ice
2 tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
Blend the first four ingredients until well mixed. Add ice and pulse until ice is crushed.
Pour into glasses or water bottle and add chia seeds. Shake/stir before drinking.