The many, and sometimes surprising, ways that exercise is good for you

If knowledge is power, then 78 percent of people over 50 say they are empowered with the knowledge that exercise is the key to healthy aging. Yet fewer than 30 percent of all Americans invest a minimum of 30 minutes a day in their physical health!

Why this disconnect? We are surrounded by media that sell us every imaginable potion, lotion, pill or surgery to augment the superficial veneer of youthfulness. But the only thing that comes close to preserving true youthfulness is free. And that’s exercise.

Let’s stop waiting for a magic bullet to blast us into health and take control of the potential that exercise gives us. If feeling powerful and strong and healthy are not reasons enough to get you exercising, here are a few concrete ways exercise will change your health.

  1. Exercise is a whole-body remedy, from the top our heads to the tips of our toes. Did you know that 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day significantly decreases your risk of dying from SEDS (Sedendary Death Syndrome)? This group of 33 chronic diseases accounts for 250,000 deaths per year in this country, more than any bird flu epidemic. The dire effects of these diseases are all positively decreased by exercise, just 30 minutes a day.
  2. Did you know that exercise also protects you against more than 12 kinds of cancer? Exercise decreases your risk of developing colon cancer by 40 percent and the risk for breast cancer by 25 percent to 30 percent. And exercise decreases the risk of dying from prostate cancer by 50 percent.
  3. Exercise will not only help you live longer, it will help you live better. Exercise can make you a better lover. Running and lifting weights will, of course, tone your body, but there’s more to it than that. Exercise will build endurance and stamina and stimulate blood vessels to make a chemical called nitric oxide, which makes them more elastic. Couple endurance and elastic vessels with increased blood flow and you have a miraculous remedy for erectile dysfunction. It’s better than any blue pill.
  4. Your brain loves exercise. In response to physical exertion, your brain makes a chemical called BDNF or “brain derived neurotrophic factor.” It’s Miracle-Gro for the brain. Your attention span will increase, and you can stay smarter longer.
  5. In addition to helping you mentally, exercise can help you emotionally. The “natural high” experienced by many people at the end of exercise is due to the release of brain stimulators such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. All three help ward off anxiety, stress and depression. Simply put, exercise makes you feel good.
  6. Exercise is also great for your metabolism. In fact, by building muscle you can become a fat-burning machine. Lowering the amount of belly fat you carry can decrease your risk of developing Type II diabetes by 30 percent to 40 percent. A man with a 40-inch waist and a woman with a 35-inch waist have significantly less risk of cardiovascular disease than their rounder peers.
  7. Lastly, despite what the commercials on your television are selling, you don’t need to buy youth in a bottle. Exercise stimulates the release of natural growth hormone, which stimulates all tissues in the body to regenerate youthfully!

Exercise helps your risk for or the impact of many diseases associated with old age

  1. Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
    Increases blood flow
    Decreases risk of CVD
  2. Cholesterol
    A small reduction in “bad” cholesterol decreases risk of CVD by 30%
  3. Cancer
    Decreases risk of colon cancer by 40%
    Decreases risk of breast cancer by 25% to 30%
    Decreases risk of dying from prostate cancer by 50%
  4. Brain issues
    Releases BDNF or “Miracle-Gro for the brain”
    Releases serotonin, dopamine and improves mood
  5. Sexual dysfunction
    Decreases erectile dysfu nction by stimu lating blood flow and vessel elasticity
    Increases endu rance and stamina
  6. Osteoporosis
    Builds bone density
    Prevents fracture

With all these reasons, why wouldn’t you do your best to get in 30 minutes a day! I know life can get in the way, but really your life and the way you age depends a lot on exercise!

For tips on how to stay fit at any age, check out my latest book Fitness After 40: Your STRONG Body at 40, 50, 60 and Beyond!