Health Feature Articles
Being active has many health benefits
Melissa Bess, nutrition and health education specialist, Camden County, University of Missouri Extension
Being physically active is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Here are some benefits you get from being physically active and exercising:
- Physical activity and exercise helps prevent obesity and reduce your risk for cancer. Many research studies have shown promising results indicating that physical activity helps protect against colon cancer and breast cancer.
- Insulin sensitivity is increased by physical activity like aerobic exercise and strength training. After carbohydrates are digested, they are broken down and moved into the bloodstream as blood glucose or blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone that unlocks the cells of the body so they can take up the glucose for energy from the bloodstream. As we age or become overweight, our bodies don’t respond as well to insulin. Insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes if blood sugar levels continue to rise.
- Resistance or weight training helps build muscle. When done three times a week, strength training improves strength and muscle mass in people of all ages. You should perform one or two sets of eight to 12 repetitions for all the major muscles of the body.
- Exercise helps with stress management — this may be because of neurotransmitters that are stimulated during physical activity. Anyone who exercises regularly can expect to feel less anxious, more relaxed, have better self-image and may eat healthier.
- Your heart is healthier. Aerobic activity helps improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system, including the heart, lungs and blood vessels. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are improved in those who are physically active.
- Weight-bearing activities like walking, jogging and strength training help prevent bone loss and may encourage bone growth. A balanced diet, including calcium and vitamin D, along with weight-bearing activities are best to improve bone health.
- Physical activity helps keep the whole family healthy because children and adults can participate together. If children understand the importance of physical activity and enjoy participating in it regularly, they are much more likely to remain active throughout their lives.
The current recommendations for moderate-intensity aerobic activity are 150 minutes per week or five days of 30 minutes. For strength training, perform a minimum of eight to 10 exercises (working all major muscle groups), doing eight to 10 repetitions of each.
If you aren’t currently active, consult with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. Start slowly and build up to an appropriate level.
Last Updated 04/30/2013