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Exercise Boosts Brainpower

1. Not only does exercise improve your body, it helps your mental function, says certified trainer David Atkinson."Exercise increases energy levels and increases serotonin in the brain, which leads to improved mental clarity," says Atkinson, director of program development for Cooper Ventures, a division of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. All that makes for a more productive day. It is clear that those who are active and who exercise are much more productive at work," says Todd A. Astorino, assistant professor of kinesiology at California State University-San Marcos. Improved productivity not only makes you a better worker, it makes things better for everyone in the workplace. Companies with less wasted work hours and less sick time end up with lower health care costs -- and an improved bottom line, Astorino says.

Movement Melts Away Stress

2. As much as it may stress you out just to think about exercising, once you actually start working out, you'll experience less stress in every part of your life. "Exercise produces a relaxation response that serves as a positive distraction," says Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. He says it also helps elevate your mood and keep depression at bay. You're not the only person who will benefit from more happiness and less stress in your life. When you're less stressed, you're less irritable, Atkinson says -- and that could improve relationships with your partner, kids, and co-workers.

Exercise Gives You Energy

3. You might be surprised at how, say, popping in a workout tape for 30 minutes in the morning can change your whole day. When endorphins are released into your bloodstream during exercise, says Astorino, "you feel much more energized the rest of the day." And when you improve your strength and stamina, it's easier to accomplish everyday tasks like carrying groceries and climbing stairs. This also helps you feel more energetic over the course of the day.A common excuse among Atkinson's clients is that they're too tired to exercise, he says. While exercise may make you feel more tired at first, he says, that won't last long. The physical tiredness you feel after working out isn't the same as everyday fatigue, he says. Besides, once your body adjusts to exercise, you'll have more energy than ever.

It's Not That Hard to Find Time for Fitness

4. The key, says Atkinson, is to use your time more wisely. Think about killing two birds with one stone.

Take your kids to the park or ride bikes together, and you're getting physical activity while enjoying family time, he says. Beyond that, go for a hike, take the kids swimming, or play hide-and-seek, tag, softball, or horseshoes in the backyard. At work, he says, schedule a meeting on the jogging track or on the golf course. Also, forget the idea that you have to trudge to the gym and spend an hour or more doing a formal workout. Instead, you can work short spurts of physical activity into your day. "Everyone has 20 minutes," Atkinson says. "Everyone has 10 minutes to jump rope, and sometimes that's better than 20 minutes of walking or running." Indeed, squeezing in two or three bouts of 15 or 20 minutes of activity is just as effective as doing it all at once, says Astorino. Vacuuming the house in the morning, riding bikes in the park with the kids in the afternoon, then taking a brisk walk in the evening can add up to an active day. Recent U.S. government guidelines say that to lose weight and keep it weight off, you should accumulate at least 60 minutes of exercise a day, says Astorino. But half an hour a day is all you need to reap the health and disease-fighting benefits of exercise.

Fitness Can Help Build Relationships

5. Think of what exercising with a partner can do for a relationship, whether it's with a spouse, a sibling, or a friend you used to go to lunch with once a week. Not only that, says Astorino, but exercise is always more fun when there's someone to do it with. So plan to walk with your spouse after dinner every night. Meet your sister or that friend for tennis or an aerobics class instead of lunch. Besides, Astorino says, people who have exercise partners stay with their programs and reach their goals more often than those who try to go it alone. "For long-term weight loss, you need to have social support," Astorino says.​

Exercise Helps Ward Off Disease

6. Research has shown that exercise can slow or help prevent heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis (bone loss), and loss of muscle mass, says Astorino. It also helps ease some aspects of the aging process. "Because exercise strengthens the muscles and joints, it is going to reduce your odds of having some of those aches and pains and problems most adults have, mostly because of the inactive lives they lead," Bryant says. Provided you don't overdo it, he says, exercise can even boost immune function -- so you spend less time down with a cold or flu. "There isn't a major health problem where exercise cannot have a positive effect," says Byrant.​

Fitness Pumps Up Your Heart

7. Not only does exercise help fight disease, says Bryant, it creates a stronger heart -- the most important muscle in the body. That helps makes exercise -- and the activities of daily life -- feel easier. "Your heart and cardiovascular system will function more effectively," says Bryant. "The heart will build up less plaque. It will become a more efficient pump." And "when the heart becomes stronger, it pumps more blood per beat, so at rest, the heart rate is lower," says Astorino. "It's not going to have to beat as fast" to expend the same amount of effort. Within only a couple days after you start exercising, Astorino says, "the body readily adapts to the stimulus it's getting and it becomes easier. You will feel less fatigue. It will not take as much effort when it comes to breathing. You shouldn't have as much pain or soreness."

​Exercise Lets You Eat More

8. Pound for pound, muscle burns more calories at rest than body fat. So the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. And, of course, you also burn calories while you're actually exercising. All this means that "cheating" with a cookie once in a while isn't going to take you back 10 steps. "Can you eat anything? No," says Atkinson. "But you can afford to enjoy some of the things you really like when you exercise regularly. You can better get away with those things in moderation than you can when you're not working out."​

Exercise Boosts Performance

9. After a few weeks of consistent exercise, you may feel your clothes fitting differently and see that your muscle tone has improved, Atkinson says.You may also notice your newly pumped-up muscles in other ways, especially if you're a recreational golfer or tennis player, or like a friendly game of pick-up basketball, says Atkinson. Exercising consistently will strengthen your muscles, increase flexibility, and improve your overall performance."Your muscles will work much more efficiently and you'll gain a greater sense of endurance," says Bryant. In addition, he says, your reaction time and balance will improve.​

Weight Loss Is Not the Most Important Goal

10. Weight loss is the reason many people exercise in the first place. But it's certainly not the sole benefit of an exercise program. Bryant says the long-term goal of weight loss is sold too heavily to people starting fitness programs, and that can be discouraging. People have trouble sticking with something if they don't see results quickly."Really, they should think about the level of functioning in the activities of daily living," says Bryant. "That can serve as the motivation to keep them coming back for more." So whatever weight loss goal you have when starting a fitness program, don't make it your only goal. Strive to feel better, to have more energy, to be less stressed. Notice the small things that exercise does for you quickly, rather than getting hung up on the narrow goal of the number on a scale. "With a goal of losing weight and enhancing health, exercise has to become a part of a person's life, not an afterthought," Astorino says.

Physical activity and exercise​

Physical activity and exercise is a major contributor to a healthy lifestyle; people are made to use their bodies, and disuse leads to unhealthy living. Unhealthy living may manifest itself in obesity, weakness, lack of endurance, and overall poor health that may foster disease development.Tips:Regular exercise can prevent and reverse age-related decreases in muscle mass and strength, improve balance, flexibility, and endurance, and decrease the risk of falls in the elderly. Regular exercise can help prevent coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Regular, weight-bearing exercise can also help prevent osteoporosis by building bone strength.Regular exercise can help chronic arthritis sufferers improve their capacity to perform daily activities such as driving, climbing stairs, and opening jars.Regular exercise can help increase self-esteem and self-confidence, decrease stress and anxiety, enhance mood, and improve general mental health.Regular exercise can help control weight gain and in some people cause loss of fat.Thirty minutes of modest exercise (walking is OK) at least three to five days a week is recommended, but the greatest health benefits come from exercising most days of the week.Exercise can be broken up into smaller 10-minute sessions.Start slowly and progress gradually to avoid injury or excessive soreness or fatigue. Over time, build up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day.People are never too old to start exercising. Even frail, elderly individuals (70-90 years of age) can improve their strength and balance with exercise.Almost any type of exercise (resistance, water aerobics, walking, swimming, weights, yoga, and many others) is helpful for everybody.Children need exercise; play outside of the home is a good beginning.Sports for children may provide excellent opportunities for exercise, but care must be taken not to overdo certain exercises (for example, throwing too many pitches in baseball may harm a joint like the elbow or shoulder).Exertion during strenuous exercise may make a person tired and sore, but if pain occurs, stop the exercise until the pain source is discovered; the person may need to seek medical help and advice about continuation of such exercise.Most individuals can begin moderate exercise, such as walking, without a medical examination. The following people, however, should consult a doctor before beginning more vigorous exercise:Men over age 40 or women over age 50 Individuals with heart or lung disease, asthma, arthritis, or osteoporosis Individuals who experience chest pressure or pain with exertion, or who develop fatigue or shortness of breath easily Individuals with conditions that increase their risks of developing coronary heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, high blood cholesterol, or having family members who had early onset heart attacks and coronary heart disease Individuals who are morbidly obese Consequences of physical inactivity and lack of exercise:Physical inactivity and lack of exercise are associated with heart disease and some cancers.Physical inactivity and lack of exercise are associated with type II diabetes mellitus (also known as maturity or adult-onset, non-insulin-dependent diabetes).Physical inactivity and lack of exercise contribute to weight gain.Mental healthHealthy living involves more than physical health, it also includes emotional or mental health. The following are some ways people can support their mental health and well-being.Tips:Get enough sleep daily; the CDC recommends the following by age group (naps inclusive); 12-18 hours from birth to 2 months, 14-15 hours from 3-11 months of age, 12-18 hours for 1-3 years of age, 11-13 hours for 3-5 years of age, 10-11 hours for 5-10 years of age, eight and a half to nine and a half hours for 10-17 years of age and those 18 and above need seven to nine hours of sleep. Elderly people need about seven to nine hours but do not sleep as deeply and may awaken at night or wake early, so naps (like kids need) allow them to accumulate the total of seven to nine hours of sleep.Take a walk and reflect on what you see and hear at least several times per week.Try something new and often (eat a new food, try a different route to work, go to a new museum display).Do some mind exercises (read, do a puzzle occasionally during the week).Try to focus on a process intensely and complete a segment of it over one to several hours, then take a break and do something relaxing (walk, exercise, short nap).Plan to spend some time talking with other people about different subjects.Try to make some leisure time to do some things that interest you every week (hobby, sport).Learn ways to say "no" when something occurs that you do not want to do or be involved with.Have fun (go on a trip with someone you love, go shopping, go fishing; do not let vacation time slip away).Let yourself be pleased with your achievements, both big and small (develop contentment).Have a network of friends; those with strong social support systems lead healthier lives.Seek help and advice early if you feel depressed, have suicidal thoughts, or consider harming yourself or others.People taking medicine for mental-health problems should not stop taking these medications, no matter how "well" they feel, until they have discussed their situation with their prescribing doctor(s).


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