Did you know that a single lifestyle change may help prevent (and in most cases, manage) 35 of the most debilitating medical conditions?1 Do you want to know what this small lifestyle change is? Exercise! According to the American College of Sports Medicine, individuals should participate in at least 150 minutes of exercise each week to help prevent serious medical problems.2 Before you shout at the computer, that’s only 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days per week!
Let’s take a closer look at some of the primary diseases that can be prevented or managed with routine exercise:
- Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness (V02max)
- Coronary Heart Disease
- Peripheral Artery Disease (hardening and narrowing of the arteries in the limbs)
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Dyslipidemia (low levels of HDL (“good) or high levels of total or LDL (“bad”) cholesterol)
Numerous studies demonstrate a strong correlation between routine physical activity and the prevention of heart-related ailments. According to one study published in Experimental & Clinical Cardiology, 30 minutes of daily physical activity helps decrease blood coagulation, blood pressure, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.3 Furthermore, routine exercise helps increase HDL (good cholesterol) and promotes vascular remodeling.3
- Cognitive dysfunction (possibly Alzheimer’s, though much research is needed to establish a strong correlation)
Anyone that has exercised regularly understands the feeling of well-being and mental clarity that comes with moving the body.This sense of contentment is likely due to a number of factors, including the release of “happy chemicals” in the brain (endorphins and endocannabinoids).4 A 2005 study noted that brisk walking for 35 minutes/5 times per week or 60 minutes/3 times per week greatly improved depressive symptoms in those with mild-to-moderate depression.5 As someone who has suffered from anxiety, I can personally attest to the importance routine activity in easing feelings of fear and sadness
- Colon Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Endometrial Cancer
Not only is regular exercise a key component in cancer prevention, but it also helps improve quality of life, physical function, and symptoms of fatigue after treatment.6 Most importantly, research demonstrates that recurrence and mortality is reduced in cancer survivors who participate in regular exercise.6
- Type 2 Diabetes (as well as prediabetes and insulin resistance)
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Gestational Diabetes
Currently, an estimated 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, a rise from the 26 million cited in 2010.7 Shockingly, 25% of these individuals do not even know they have the disease!7 Fortunately, reserach repeatedly demonstrates a positive relationship between exercise and blood sugar control, even allowing some patients to greatly reduce medical interventions previously required to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
There are a host of other ailments that can be prevented and managed by routine exercise. Take a gander at this list:
- Endothelial Dysfunction
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- Gallbladder Disease
- Accelerated Aging/Premature Death
- Balance Issues
- Bone Fractures or Falls
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Erectile Dysfunction (get to the gym guys!)
- Hemostasis (lack of blood flow)
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Chronic Pain
Clearly, exercise is not just about the size of your jeans. While regular exercise is a crucial component in weight loss and weight maintenance, exercise is about so much more than outer appearance. Exercise helps your body and mind function optimally. So care for your “temple”, it’s the only one you get. Give your body at least 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days of the week. You’ll be glad you did!
- Morton GA, Kravitz L. 35 Ailments, one prescription: move! IDEA Fitness Journal. February 2016:41-51.
- ACSM in the news. American College of Sports Medicine Website. https://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/acsm-in-the-news/2011/08/01/acsm-position-stand-on-physical-activity-and-weight-loss-now-available. Accessed February 15, 2016.
- Buttar HS, Li T, Ravi N. Prevention of cardiovascular diseases: Role of exercise, dietary interventions, obesity and smoking cessation. Exp Clin Cardiol. Winter 2005;10(4):229-249.
- Depression and anxiety: exercise eases symptoms. Mayo Clinic Website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495. Published October 10, 2014. Accessed February 15, 2016.
- Exercise and depression. Harvard Medial School Website. http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-and-depression-report-excerpt. Published June 9, 2009. Accessed February 15, 2016.
- Sokolof JM. The role of exercise in cancer rehabilitation. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Website. https://www.mskcc.org/sites/default/files/node/19501/documents/plenary-role-exercise-ca-rehab-jonas-sokolof-do.pdf. Published May 14, 2013. Accessed February 15, 2016.
- Diabetes latest. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. http://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesfactsheet/. Published June 17, 2014. Accessed February 15, 2016.