How to treat yourself to the benefits of exercise in the new year

One of the best gifts you’ll ever receive isn’t a budget buster. It’s the gift of being active.

Consider this: People who are active for about seven hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying prematurely than those who fit in less than 30 minutes during a week, research shows.

Exercise may help you live longer because it can fend off a long list of health problems, from heart disease and high blood pressure to type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer.

Keep reading, and you’ll discover more reasons why you should routinely treat your body to exercise.

Stronger muscles and bones

Strength training isn’t just for body builders. Lifting weights or working out with elastic exercise bands builds and tones muscle, which helps you stay strong and independent.

But that’s only one benefit of strength training. It can also speed up a sluggish metabolism and keep pounds from creeping on in midlife and later.

Strength training, along with weight-bearing exercises such as dancing, jogging or brisk walking, increases bone density, which can help you avoid a broken hip or other fracture brought on by

Better balance

Exercise that makes your legs stronger and improves your balance, like tai chi, helps reduce your risk of falling. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in the US. Older adults are particularly vulnerable. Did you know that one in three of people 65 and older fall each year?

Permanent weight loss

It’s entirely possible to slim down simply by eating less. But lost pounds have a way of reappearing and settling all too comfortably on your tummy, hips and thighs. Only about 5 percent of dieters manage to keep off the weight they lose.

Exercise is the best way to stop the cycle of losing and gaining weight. Data from the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks people who have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept them off for at least a year, reveals that 90 percent of these successful losers exercise frequently.

A happier mood

Is your to-do list out of control? Did your spouse snap at you, or did your teen talk back? Feeling stressed is your cue to be active. Exercise releases mood-elevating chemicals that ease tension.

Plus, workouts can seem like play, especially once you realize that exercise can be more than just sweating on a treadmill.

Consider hiking a nearby trail, climbing a rock wall or playing tag with your kids. In other words, have fun exercising.

Better arthritis control

While it may seem counterintuitive, moderate-intensity, low-impact aerobic exercise can actually help lessen the pain of achy joints and make managing arthritis easier.

Time well spent

Any exercise is better than none. But it’s best if you do a combination of aerobic exercise, activities that get you breathing harder and your heart beating faster, and muscle-strengthening exercise.

Aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as fast walking) every week. If you prefer vigorous exercise (such as jogging), do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes each week.

Lift weights or do other muscle-building exercises at least two days a week. Work out all of your major muscle groups, including those in your arms, chest, back, stomach, hips and legs.

Your primary care provider can help you develop an exercise plan.

Courtesy of PeaceHealth Medical Group

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