There is nothing I enjoy more than running, well maybe finishing a run. Unfortunately that’s the kicker with exercise. It’s a lot easier to stay on the coach, but once you get going, there is no looking back. Studies show that while it is difficult to start a workout, once you start an exercise session, the benefits are almost immediate.
The benefits of exercise for your health are unmatched. Indeed, physical activity is arguably the single most important factor to safeguard your health. Moving instead of sitting is the single greatest factor for the maintenance of a healthy body weight, a battle that 60% of us are currently losing. Exercise will give you more energy and strength, improves your feelings of self-worth, and keeps depression at bay while allowing you to sleep better. Exercise also helps to prevent several chronic health conditions that are currently plaguing our society. Regular physical activity can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and arthritis. Surprisingly, 43% of Albertans are currently inactive.
Exercise and your heart
Heart disease remains a leading cause of death in Canada and in Alberta. Every year, over 50,000 Canadians and close to 5,000 Albertans die from diseases of the heart. A sedentary lifestyle is one of five major risk factors (with hypertension, high blood cholesterol, smoking and obesity) for heart disease. Surprisingly, physical fitness is a stronger predictor of mortality than smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. If you do not exercise, your risk of heart disease at least doubles.(2)
Why is exercise so important for your heart?
Exercise has several well-known benefits that help to reduce heart disease. A large study looking at the effects of exercise in over 27,000 healthy women broke down the benefits of physical activity for the prevention of cardiovascular events as follows (3):
- Reduction in inflammatory markers made the largest contribution to lower risk – 32.6%
- Improvement in blood pressure – 27% risk reduction
- Improvements in blood cholesterol and other lipids – 19.1%
- Improvements in weight – 10.1%
- Impact on blood sugar and diabetes – 8.9%
The trick with exercise is to stay motivated. In order to stay motivated, you need to find something you enjoy. If you like walking, that’s great, you should walk. Another trick that often helps people stay active is to join a class or to find someone they can exercise with. It helps to stay motivated in the long run if you have made a commitment.
Although it is good to remember that the more vigorous the exercise and the longer the duration of the activity, the greater the benefits, you should know that recommendations for physical activity are surprisingly modest. The main reason for this is that the greatest gains occur when a person goes from no exercise to becoming moderately active. Large studies have shown that exercising for at least 30 minutes on most days decreases the short term risk or mortality by an average of 23 percent.(4)
So how active should you aim to be? Ideally you should be active for one hour a day. The minimum should be 2.5h per week or 5 sessions of 30 minutes of moderate activity. Moderate activities include brisk walking, yard work, cycling, swimming and some household tasks.
You know that you should exercise and you can. Think of a personal meaningful reason to become active and find an activity you enjoy. Set realistic goals, plan for your activities, let go of your excuses and go out there and have fun…
Ludo is an exceptional physician with strong clinical skills grounded in scientific knowledge. He has helped design and formulated several dietary supplements for some of the most advanced nutraceutical companies in Canada. Dr. Ludo has also helped develop and implement wellness strategies for corporations and businesses looking to improve the health and happiness of their employees.
- Myers J, Prakash M, Froelicher V, et al. Exercise capacity and mortality among men referred for exercise testing. N Engl J Med. 2002; 346: 793–801.
- Powell KE, Thompson PD, Caspersen CJ, Kendrick JS. Physical activity and the incidence of coronary heart disease. Annu Rev Public Health. 1987;8:253-87.
- Mora S et al. Physical Activity and Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Events: Potential Mediating Mechanisms. Circulation. 2007 November 6; 116(19): 2110–2118
- Paffenbarger RS Jr, Hyde RT, Wing AL, Lee IM, Jung DL, Kampert JB. The association of changes in physical-activity level and other lifestyle characteristics with mortality among men. N Engl J Med. 1993 Feb 25;328(8):538-45.