I can't tell you how many of the people I meet absolutely hate exercise. While I'm a firm believer in the power of a healthy diet to control weight, I still recommend that people who want to be healthy adopt a regular exercise program. And most people hate it. I've met people who will agree to some physical activity, but tell me they'll only keep up the routine until they're at their goal weight, at which point they'll seek to maintain their weight with diet.
While it's certainly possible to maintain a healthy weight by regulating and restricting the foods you eat, an exercise program does so much more for your body than help you shed unwanted pounds. Sedentary living increases your risk of:
- Some cancers
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
In fact, sedentary living is one of the leading causes of preventable death around the world!
The health benefits of exercise are well documented, and we're actually discovering more each day. Exercise improves cardiovascular function, brain function, and contributes to bone health.
Doctors and researchers agree that adopting an exercise program has numerous health benefits. Still, there are some exercises that are more beneficial than others. While strength training is beneficial - especially if your goal is weight loss, since muscle speeds your metabolism - aerobic exercise has the largest impact on heart health (Unsurprisingly. It's called cardio for a reason). The best exercise for your overall well-being is interval training. Consistent moderate activity interspersed with short bursts of intense cardio strengthens the heart, revs your metabolism, and provides the biggest benefit.
Still, I remember what it was like to be just starting out, and how watching paint dry can seem compelling when your other option is to hit the gym. In any exercise program, motivation is key.
So, the next time you consider skipping exercise to watch grass grow, consider the following benefits to your heart health provided by moderate/vigorous exercise.
- Regular, vigorous physical activity lowers your risk of heart disease by up to 45%!! But if you aren't able to do a difficult cardio training session several times a week, don't worry. Even moderate exercise benefits heart health.
- Exercise strengthens your heart: Your heart is a muscle, but not the kind that can lift weights of bench press. Cardio is your heart's bicep curl. And over time, with consistent exercise, your heart gets stronger and more efficient. Healthy, physically active people have a lower resting heart rate then sedentary people, because their heart can pump and circulate blood with less effort and strain, lowering the risk of heart attack.
- Keeping up a regular exercise program increases artery elasticity and flexibility: As you age, your arteries become stiffer and more inflexible. Exercise prevents or reverses this, lowering your chances of having high blood pressure.
- Exercise can improve your cholesterol! Moderate intensity cardio can lower your levels of LDL cholesterol, while vigorous physical activity can actually increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind), helping to keep your arteries clear.
Obviously, if you've already suffered a serious cardiovascular event - heart attack or heart failure - you should consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. But people young and old can get a jumpstart on preserving heart health now by incorporating an exercise program into their healthy living plans.