Is Exercise Worth the Effort? Good Health & Good Living

By Canning, Clare | The Middle East, April 2009 | Go to article overview

Is Exercise Worth the Effort? Good Health & Good Living


Canning, Clare, The Middle East


EACH WEEK SEEMS to bring with it a new health concern. Obesity, possibly leading to diabetes, heart disease and cancer have occupied the international media of late, accompanied by warnings of the perils of a lifestyle which pays scant attention to healthy eating and daily exercise.

For some, exercise is something they can easily fit into their lifestyle. For others, it falls low on their list of priorities or requires a lot of effort to maintain. According to the UAE Ministry of Health, a very high percentage of adults do not carry out enough exercise to maintain health. This trend is common throughout the US and Europe.

The benefits of regular exercise reads like a 'miracle drug'--'Exercise will seriously affect your health'!--by:

1 Reducing your blood pressure, therefore reducing your risk of coronary heart disease and strokes.

2 Increasing production of HDL -'good cholesterol' beneficial to heart health.

3 Improving bone density, therefore preventing osteoporosis.

4 Decreasing your overall risk of cancer.

5 Combined with a healthy diet, preventing the development of diabetes by maintaining a healthy blood sugar level and reducing body fat levels.

6 Boosting your immune system.

7 Promoting psychological-wellbeing by releasing serotonin, the 'feel-good hormone', therefore improving your mood.

So, if the benefits of exercise are so great, why do so many of us do so little? What prevents us from including regular exercise in our lifestyle?

To successfully develop and maintain an active lifestyle which includes regular exercise, we need to develop strategies to overcome our own personal obstacles. Our desire to achieve the benefits of regular exercise must be stronger than continuing the activity we perceive as 'giving up'.

To get started: keep an activity diary, it will give a real indication of how much, or how little, activity you are doing. Your diary should include how much time you spend doing sedentary activities--driving, using public transport, sitting at your desk or watching television. Try to identify where could you fit in some extra activity around these more sedentary times-before or after work, during your lunch break, in the evening or at the weekend. Encourage friends and family to join you-encouragement and support from others can work wonders.

Start slowly: set yourself weekly, small, achievable goals, e.g. try to accumulate 30 minutes, 2-3 times a week, of moderate-intensity activity (about the intensity of a brisk walk). Walk instead of drive on short journeys and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Don't just leave activity to chance; take time to plan what you will do for the week and day ahead. Start with small achievable step and progress from there, doing a little more each week.

Making change does not happen overnight: stay motivated by focusing on what you are trying to achieve in the long run, as well as what you have achieved so far.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Ideally, you want to incorporate all aspects of fitness into your lifestyle: cardiovascular activities, resistance exercise and flexibility. Cardiovascular activities, e.g. walking, running swimming or cycling, strengthen your heart, lungs and circulatory system as a defence against coronary heart disease, as well as burning off excess stores of energy--fat, the primary cause of many health problems.

Even at rest, your body uses energy: as your activity intensity increases, so does the amount of kcals your body uses. …

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