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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • December 2017
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The benefits of regular exercise

It is likely you have been told to exercise more, and you know there are benefits to regular exercise. But what exactly are those benefits, what types of exercises should you focus on and just how much exercise are we really talking about?

When you begin to exercise regularly, your body starts to experience changes. You become stronger, lose weight, your endurance increases and your clothes begin to fit better. But these external changes are not the only benefits of regular exercise, internally your body is experiencing changes as well.

Your body begins to use oxygen better and the heart uses oxygen more efficiently. More blood is getting to and from your muscles so your heart doesn’t have to work as hard as it used to. Your body can recover faster after a workout and you may start to notice an increase in energy levels. Regular exercise can also improve your good cholesterol and decrease your bad cholesterol. These changes affect your chance of mortality from coronary artery disease. It also means that you decrease your chance of cardiovascular disease or a heart attack.

Regular exercise also decreases your chance of stroke, colon cancer and breast cancer. It reduces anxiety, depression, inflammation and improves cognitive function as well. Exercise is so important that doctors encourage people who have cancer to continue to exercise even while going through treatment.

So what type and how much exercise should we be aiming to accomplish? The Athletic College of Sports Medicine recommends that a healthy adult, 18-65 years of age, should work toward a minimum of 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise five days a week. This is the equivalent of a fast-paced walk. Another minimum option is 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days a week. This would be a jog, fast run or a slow paced swim. In addition to aerobic activity, resistance training is recommended two to three days a week. Resistance training is important for everyone because it improves bone strength, and can reduce the likelihood of a bone fracture from osteoporosis later in life.

It has been shown that the benefits are more notable if a person can work their way up to 300 minutes a week, or 60 minutes five days a week. The best thing about aerobic activity is that it can be split up into 10-minute sessions all week; 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes in the evening adds up to the minimum 150 minutes a week. For some people, this may be an easier way to fit regular exercise into their daily routine.

The best advice is to start slow, and work your way up to 150 minutes a week. Once you have reached that goal, your next goal could be to start working toward 300 minutes a week to reach the full benefits of exercise. You can make small changes in your daily routine to include exercise, and you may begin to experience all of the benefits, both external and internal, that regular exercise can bring.

If you are concerned about exercise duration interacting with any preexisting conditions, remember to consult your health care professional before starting any exercise program. 

Reference: “ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription.” American College of Sports Medicine. Linda Pescatello et al. Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health. 2014.

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