We all know that exercise is important; there are many benefits of exercise like – cardiovascular health and overall stress management. But exercise is more than maintaining cardiovascular health. Studies on exercise have indicated that engaging in moderate exercise, meaning a brisk walk, 3x a week for 20 minute intervals, is beneficial for supporting hormonal balance, immune system function, cognitive ability and breathing disorders in addition to the many benefits seen for cardiovascular health. In fact, if one looked at the studies surrounding exercise, it becomes apparent that exercise may be the best preventative strategy for living a long and healthy life. Let’s take a look at what a moderate exercise program can do for the human body.
Moderate 30 minute exercise programs have been shown to improve hot flashes and night sweats as well as elevate mood, decrease irritability, decrease headaches and improve sleeping patterns in menopausal women for a 24 hour time period following the exercise bout. Exercise programs have also been shown to improve stress levels and increase coping ability and these benefits seem to extend to tai chi and yoga based exercise programs and not only cardiovascular or strength based programs. Exercise also shows benefit in maintaining bone density and decreasing fracture rate for this group of women and promotes healthy cholesterol profiles, body composition and blood pressure management for those going through the menopausal process.
Immune System Function
Exercise is highly beneficial for immune system health and moderate exercise has been shown to stimulate immune cell production, elevate temperature to assist in the removal of bacterial agents, increase excretion of carcinogens and encourage early detection of viral infections. And exercise also modulates the stress response and controls inflammation in immune based episodes. And appears to decrease both the duration as well as the severity of influenza (Flu) infections. Exercise also appears to decrease the prevalence of infections for those participating in moderate exercise. And increases antibody response in response to vaccinations.
Memory and Cognitive Function
While there is a lack of research in this area. Studies do indicate that moderate exercise programs reduce the risk of dementia for some individuals. And that individuals with the lowest levels of exercise participation may be twice as likely to develop dementia conditions compared to those with higher levels of exercise participation. Research also indicates that exercise, in conjunction with a healthy diet, moderate alcohol intake and smoking cessation. May provide the greatest protection against the development of dementia.
COPD and Breathing Disorders
Research indicates that individuals with asthma can exercise safely providing that they are properly medicated. Avoid triggers for allergic attacks and follow proper exercise protocols. For individuals with exercise-induced asthma, providing that proper prophylactic treatment protocols (ie. preventative asthma medications) are followedd. These people should be able to engage in exercise programs safely. The benefits of exercise in COPD patients include increased physical capacity, decreased anxiety, greater independence in daily activities, and reduced fatigue. In studies on COPD and exercise it was foundd that exercise is an important component in pulmonary rehabilitation. And that light to moderate physical activity is beneficial for improving the quality of life. Research also showed that COPD patients who engage in a progressive exercise program increased functional capacity from 0-80% after only 6 weeks of training.
And of course, the benefits of exercise for Cardiovascular Disease
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for women despite the emphasis put on the prevention of osteoporosis and breast cancer. Cardiovascular disease is the broad name givenn to disorders that affect the heart. And circulatory system as a whole and includes angina, heart attack, high blood pressure, arterial blockages, congestive heart failure, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Studies indicate that women are twice as likely to die within a year of a heart attack. And twice as likely to die from coronary intervention methods such as grafts and angioplasty.
The research indicates that exercise programs are safe and effective for increasing strength and endurance in individuals with cardiovascular disease. And while cardiovascular disease is still thoughtt of a condition that affects mostly men. More women die each year of coronary heart disease than from any other condition. For those individuals with cardiovascular disease. Exercise programs encourage cardiac muscle tone and increase the hearts ability to utilize oxygen. Which decreases fatigue when doing normal activity. Other benefits of exercise for this group of individuals include the following:
- decreases body weight and fat percentage
- decreases blood lipid levels like triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels
- Improves insulin resistance
- Improves blood clotting ability
- Improves blood pressure control