How can exercise affect your health?

According to the American Heart Association, 44% of American adults get some exercise. But it is not regular or intense enough to help their hearts and overall health. Another 28% of Americans aren't active at all.

Once you get in the habit, exercise becomes more than a healthy activity. It becomes a part of your life. In fact, many people don't feel as good when they miss their workouts. In addition, exercise can help decrease the following:

  • Risk of heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Exercise can help improve:

  • Blood flow throughout your body
  • Muscle strength, increasing you ability to do other physical activities
  • Lung function

In addition, exercise can help improve:

  • Help you lose weight
  • Boost your energy level
  • Relieve tension
  • Help you manage stress
  • Improve your self-image
  • Ease some anxiety and depression
  • Prevent bone loss
  • Help you sleep better

What you can do

As the first step, you should always check with your doctor about the types of exercise that are right for you. Then if you aren't used to exercise, you might want to start out slowly. Begin with 10 minutes a day, then increase your time by 5 minutes per week until you are up to 30-60 minutes most days of the week.

Exercise can of course include brisk walking, jogging, rollerblading, or tennis. But here are other ideas to work exercise into your daily routine:

  • Do garden work that gets you moving -and avoid using a riding mower.
  • Walk instead of taking the cart when golfing.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Do leg lifts while talking on the phone.
  • Park your car or get off the bus a few block early, and walk the rest of the way.
  • Find a distant parking spot at the mall and walk to the entrance.
  • Get into dancing.
  • Use motivators when you exercise -watch a DVD, listen to a book on tape or CD, or listen to your favorite music.

Don't discount the impact that lifestyle changes can have on your health. According to the National Institutes of Health, a healthy lifestyle can help lower heart disease risk by 82%. In most cases, that means you should get regular physical activity, follow a heart-healthy eating plan, maintain a healthy weight, and quit smoking.

Please check with your doctor or nurse before starting a diet or exercise program.