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Why exercise?  We’ve all heard that exercise is good for us, but what exactly does it do for our health? Here are just some of the good things that exercise does for our health.

Exercise helps keep our blood pressure in a healthy range and well controlled. This keeps your heart healthier and lowers your chance of having a stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. 

Exercise keeps you from putting on weight. Exercise is also really important to help you keep the pounds off for good if you have been able to lose weight. If your main goal is to lose weight, then eating healthy and moving more are the most important things to do.

Exercise helps you to keep your body flexible.  It’s important for strength, movement, coordination, bone health, and for keeping you from getting injured. 

Exercise is good for you mind – it boosts your mood and improves your mental and brain health. If you have diabetes, exercise also helps to control your blood sugars. 

The American Heart Association recommends that we get 2 and a half hours of physical activity each week. That should be about 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week.  There’s nothing magical about those numbers.

It doesn’t need to be 30 minutes all at one time – you can break it up into smaller chunks of time. If you are just getting started, try first doing 10-15 minutes of exercise a few times a day. 

Doing any kind of exercise like walking, to get your heart beating faster, is better than doing nothing! 

Your goal to start can be to just do more than you do now. Instead of writing 30 minutes on your calendar, write in things like “Walk the Dog” on Tuesday and “Go to the Community Center” on Thursday.

Exercising does not mean that you have to feel pain and be miserable to get the health benefits.  In fact, 2 and a half hours of moderate physical activity per week is what you need. This means any kind of activity that gets your heart beating a bit faster and makes you breathe a little harder.

It can be as simple as going for a fast walk. When the weather is nice, you can walk around your neighborhood or a park. 

You should also have a plan for when it’s not nice out. For example, exercises that you can do at home, walking at the mall or going to a gym or community center.

If you have diabetes, let your doctor know before you start an exercise program because you may need less insulin on the days you exercise. 

If you have arthritis that makes walking hurt, you can try something like water aerobics, or riding an exercise bike or elliptical machine to help avoid hurting your knees and hips.

In addition to those kinds of “cardio” activities that get you moving, adding strength exercises two days a week helps your body in other ways. Strength exercises include things like lifting weights, doing push-ups, lunges, or squats.

These exercises build muscle which helps you from getting injured. This also helps to keep you from putting on weight. If you haven’t been exercising, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor if it’s okay for you to start. If your blood pressure is out of control or if you have other medical conditions like arthritis or lung disease, then your doctor can help you decide which types of exercises are best. 

Ask your doctor:

  1. What kind of exercise can I do?
  2. Do I need to do any tests before I start exercising?
  3. And do I need to first see a physical physiologist to help me start moving safely? 

When you first start exercising, especially if you are out of shape or have not exercised for a while, start with a short amount of activity for a short time, and slowly work your way up from there. 

Nothing quite beats walking if you can do it. If you cannot walk, there are exercises you can do while sitting in a chair. Dancing can also be good exercise if you enjoy it.

Another example of something to try is using hand-held weights. Try 2, 5, or 10 pound weights to start with. The weights should be heavy enough that after you’ve lifted them 8 to 12 times, it feels a bit harder to do.  If you don’t have weights, you can use things like a big can of vegetables or a bottle of water or laundry detergent instead.

The most important thing to do when planning how to fit in more exercise is to pick something that you can do safely and that you will enjoy.

Regular exercise and every bit of extra movement you can do helps keep your blood pressure under control,keeps you from putting on weight, helps your heart, promotes brain and bone health, and if you have diabetes, help control your blood sugar.

So now you have heard why exercise is important to your health and some ideas for how to get moving. What’s going to be your exercise plan?