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Secret Benefits of Exercise

By Sheila Cluff

     Do you ever wonder if it’s worth the time and attention to stay fit?  Yes, when my life get crazy and then ten more things are added to my calendar, I wonder about that too.

     However, stop right there because staying fit is essential to a full, happy and productive life.

     Working out regularly, enough to be breathless and feel the warmth of active muscles, can:

LOWER risk of stroke by 27%

REDUCE incidence of diabetes by about 50%

REDUCE high blood pressure by about 40%

DIMINISH mortality and risk of recurrent breast cancer by about 50%

LOWER chances of colon cancer by over 60%

REDUCE risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 40%

DECREASE need for antidepressants

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2010, called “Hidden Benefits of Exercise,” inactivity poses the great health risk of our time, as great as smoking.  It contributes to diseases such as stroke, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, and depression.

     Most of us, honestly, exercise to stay strong, to be trimmer and to eat more calories. Right?  Yes, that is great motivation.

     But why not think of fitness as the ultimate “insurance” package for your body and mind.   Yes, you must put in the time, but the long-term results are significant.

     How much exercise is enough?  “Anything is better than nothing,” an elderly friend, who walks the mall, told me.  He’s right.  But more so, new thinking is that we need to be active five or six days a week for at least 45 minutes and an hour, seven days a week is even better.

     While any type of fitness routine that gets the heart beating and breath moving in and out of the lungs is good, my choice, especially when life is nuts is to walk.  Here are some tips and ideas:

Make sure you have time to walk.  Expect to walk 20 to 60 minutes. It’s okay to turn down other things to devote time to this affair of the heart.

Walking supports a healthy heart.  It helps control some diseases or lower your risks for them.  It maintains healthy lungs, organs, weight and can keep your mental well being balanced too.  All without medication.  However, remember to talk to your doctor about what’s going on with your body.

Walking can help strengthen bones, a valid and serious concern for men and women of any age.  They won’t send you a thank you card, but after walking each day for less than a month, your jeans will probably be roomy and you’ll probably have better posture. 

Buy new walking shoes and only wear them for walking.  Buy the best ones you can afford and try on a number of shoes before you take out your wallet.  They are not all created equal. Sneakers, sandals and run-down shoes will harm your feet and your body.

Walk when you’re feeling out-of-sorts.  Walking has been clinically proven to help reduce mild depression or that “ho-hum” feeling many women experience during the monthly cycle.

Walk in clothes that move and breathe.  Choose your walking wardrobe so that you’re comfortable and you look good.  You’ll be more motivated to stick with walking if you have something new.

Walk with a friend or a canine pal.

Walking is a family affair.  Let kids bike or skate, or pull them in a wagon if they’re too small to cover much mileage.  Remember your example can help them have a healthier life.

Join a non-competitive walking group.

Brown bag your lunch so you have time to walk during that hour.  You’ll find, even if you can only walk a few blocks or do laps around the courtyard of your office building that you feel more emotionally charged and stable when you return to your desk.

Take a walking vacation.  Check out the ads on the Internet for tour groups that specialize in walking through exotic locations.  Take a health holiday at a resort that includes walking “classes.”

Volunteer to organize a healthy walking group for seniors, kids with special needs, your church group or the people in your college dorm.  Plan walks to interesting places around your city.

Use a walking stick, especially if you walk on rough, slippery or mountainous terrain.  Many serious walkers use two sticks, like one might when using snowshoes.  Walking sticks will help you get an upper body workout while you walk.

Start walking with baby steps, especially if you haven’t been active for a while.  Begin by walking for about ten minutes, or even less.  Increase your walking time slowly.  Gaining the benefits of walking can be felt after just one walk, but realistically, you’ll need to walk for two to six weeks before you see physical results.

Double the benefits of walking by contracting your abdominal muscles as walk.

Vary the terrain and location of your walks.  Keep in mind that once you’re hooked on walking, other “sports” may seem mild compared to your love affair with strong muscles and a youthful-looking body.

     Take a few moments and read the entire article by Laura Landro, The Wall Street Journal, on the benefits of fitness,

     Share the article with those you love and make time this year to stay fit for life.

Healthy Regards, Sheila 

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