Exercise has many benefits

Just 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week, can help decrease risks of certain diseases, promote weight loss, assist with heart and lung health and improve mental wellbeing.

Most of us know that physical activity is essential for good health. Research shows that exercise can help:

  • Decrease risks associated with heart disease, stroke, some cancers, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
  • Prevent weight gain and promote weight loss (when combined with reduced calorie intake).
  • Improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness.
  • Improve mental health and reduce depression.

It doesn’t take hours of painful, sweat-soaked exercise to achieve the above health benefits. Adults need at least two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes total) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, along with muscle strengthening activities that work the major muscle groups. Moderate-intensity aerobic activities, such as brisk walking, hiking, riding a bike and pushing a lawn mower will make a person breath harder than normal, break a sweat and increase heart rate. Muscle strengthening activities to incorporate could be lifting weights, using elastic bands and digging or shoveling to work the body’s muscles.

There are four types of physical fitness that can be achieved by being more physically active:

  1. Flexibility – When a person is flexible, they can move comfortably and do the things they want to do. Lack of flexibility can cause pain, may lead to injury and makes the muscles work harder and tire more quickly. Stretching exercises will help increase flexibility.
  2. Strength – In order to maintain strength, muscles need to be exercised. Muscles can weaken and atrophy (shrink) when they are inactive, which can cause a person to feel weak and tire more quickly. Lifting weights can help strengthen muscles.
  3. Endurance – A person’s energy level depends on the health of their heart, lungs and muscles. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity like walking, swimming and dancing can help improve cardiovascular fitness and control weight. It also helps promote mental health, restful sleep and increases energy levels.
  4. Balance – In order to have good balance, a person’s trunk and legs must be strong and have coordinated muscles. Strength, flexibility and endurance all contribute to good balance, so a mixture of stretching, moderate-intensity aerobic activity and weight-bearing exercise will help improve and/or maintain balance.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you check with a health professional if you have any chronic condition, especially arthritis, diabetes or heart disease before starting an exercise regimen to avoid injury and/or discomfort. For more information about physical activity for adults, check out the following websites:

Physical activity guidelines for Americans

How much physical activity do adults need?

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