It has often been said that “it is far better and easier to prevent a problem than to treat one.” When it comes to your health, nothing could be closer to the truth. Fortunately, the three primary steps you can take to prevent a health problem have already been identified: avoid undue risk factors (e.g., smoking, excessive alcohol, unsafe sex, recreational drugs, etc.), eat sensibly (i.e., consume a nutritionally sound diet — refer to the USDA’s food pyramid) and exercise regularly (i.e., adhere to the American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines for exercise prescription).
Of these three factors, many individuals would contend that, for whatever reason, the need to exercise has received the least amount of acceptance by the American public. What many Americans have obviously either discounted or failed to fully understand is that exercise offers every individual an array of terrific health-related benefits.
1. Improves the functioning of your immune system.
2. Helps you to lose weight — especially fat weight.
3. Improves the likelihood of your survival from a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
4. Improves your body posture.
5. Reduces your risk of heart disease.
6. Improves your body’s ability to use fat for energy during physical activity.
7. Helps the body resist upper-respiratory tract infections.
8. Helps relieve the pain of tension headaches — perhaps the most common type of headache.
9. Increases your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max — perhaps the best measure of your physical working capacity).
10. Increases your level of muscle strength.
11. Helps you to preserve lean body tissue.
12. Reduces your risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure).
13. Increases the density and breaking strength of your ligaments and tendons.
14. Improves your coronary (heart) circulation.
15. Increases your circulating levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
16. Reduces your circulating levels of triglycerides.
17. Helps you to maintain your weight loss — unlike dieting, alone.
18. Helps improve short-term memory in older individuals.
19. Reduces your risk of developing Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes.
20. Helps relieve many of the common discomforts of pregnancy (e.g., backache, heartburn, constipation, etc.).
21. Reduces your level of anxiety.
22. Helps control blood pressure in hypertensives.
23. Increases your level of muscle endurance.
24. Reduces your vulnerability to various cardiac dysrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).
25. Increases the density and breaking strength of your bones.
26. Assists you in your efforts to stop smoking.
27. Helps to boost creativity.
28. Lowers your resting heart rate.
29. Slows the rate of joint degeneration if you suffer from osteoarthritis.
30. Helps you overcome jet lag.
31. Enhances your sexual desire, performance and satisfaction.
32. Increases your anaerobic threshold allowing you to work or exercise longer at higher intensity before a significant amount of lactic acid builds up.
33. Helps you to incur fewer medical and health-care expenses.
34. Improves your ability to recover from physical exertion.
35. Increases your ability to supply blood flow to your skin for cooling.
36. Increases the diffusion capacity of your lungs, enhancing the exchange of oxygen from your lungs to your blood.
37. Improves your heat tolerance.
38. Provides you with protection against injury.
39. Reduces the viscosity of your blood.
40. Increases the thickness of the cartilage in your joints.
41. Helps you to more effectively manage stress.
42. Helps you sleep easier and better.
43. Helps you to maintain your resting metabolic rate.
44. Reduces your risk of developing colon cancer.
45. Reduces your risk of developing breast cancer.
46. Reduces your risk of developing prostate cancer.
47. Expands your blood plasma volume.
48. Helps to relieve constipation.
49. Reduces your risk of having a stroke.
50. Helps to alleviate depression.
51. Helps you maintain proper muscle balance.
52. Increases your ability to adapt to cold environments.
53. Helps you to combat substance abuse.
54. Helps to alleviate certain menstrual symptoms.
55. Lowers your heart-rate response to submaximal physical exertion.
56. Helps alleviate low-back pain.
57. Helps reduce the amount of insulin required to control your blood sugar level if you are a Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetic.
58. Improves your mental alertness.
59. Improves your respiratory muscle strength and muscle endurance — particularly important for asthmatics.
60. Reduces the rate and severity of medical complications associated with hypertension.
61. Helps you to burn excess calories.
62. Increases your cardiac reserve.
63. Improves your physical appearance.
64. Increases your tissues’ responsiveness to the actions of insulin (i.e., improves tissue sensitivity for insulin), helping you to better control your blood sugar — particularly if you are a Type II diabetic.
65. Increases your stroke volume (the amount of blood the heart pumps with each beat).
66. Improves your self-esteem.
67. Reduces your susceptibility to coronary thrombosis (a clot in an artery that supplies the heart with blood).
68. Helps you to relax.
69. Offsets some of the negative side-effects of certain antihypertensive drugs.
70. Improves mental cognition — a short-term effect only.
71. Maintains or improves your level of joint flexibility.
72. Allows you to consume greater quantities of food and still maintain caloric balance.
73. Helps prevent and relieve the stresses that cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
74. Protects against “creeping obesity” (the slow, but steady weight gain that occurs as you age).
75. Makes your heart a more efficient pump.
76. Increases your productivity at work.
77. Reduces your likelihood of developing low-back problems.
78. Improves your balance and coordination.
79. Improves your glucose tolerance.
80. Gives you more energy and vigor to meet the demands of your daily life, and provides you with a reserve to meet the demands of unexpected emergencies.
81. Decreases (by 20-30 percent) your need for antihypertensive medication, if you are a hypertensive.
82. Helps to retard bone loss as you age, thereby reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis.
83. Helps to relieve and prevent “migraine headache attacks.”
84. Reduces your risk of endometriosis (a common cause of infertility).
85. Reduces your level of abdominal obesity — a significant health risk factor.
86. Helps decrease your appetite — a short-term effect only.
87. Improves your pain tolerance and mood, if you suffer from osteoarthritis.
88. Reduces work days missed due to illness.
89. Enhances your muscles’ ability to extract oxygen from your blood.
90. Helps you to maintain an independent lifestyle.
91. Improves your general mood state.
92. Improves your athletic performance.
93. Helps to increase your overall health awareness.
94. Reduces your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
95. Improves your overall quality of life.
Look for a better way
As you can see from this list of health-related exercise benefits, exercise can have a substantial impact in helping you avoid becoming a negative statistic in the ongoing battle for personal wellness. In the litany of self-help advice books and articles that currently proliferate the marketplace, one of the most common themes to individuals who perceive they are confronted with an insurmountable problem is to “look for a better way.” When it comes to your health, the better way has already been identified: exercise regularly. Without question, exercise is medicine … preventive medicine.