5 Lesser-Known Health Risks You Can Lower With Exercise
With the new year here, I’m sure there are plenty of you that have “get into shape” as a resolution. When we think of getting in shape, we think of losing weight and looking better naked in front of the mirror.
When we plateau or come across hard battles with food, our motivation slowly wanes and we slip back into old habits.
I’ve been floating around the same weight for a couple of weeks longer than I wanted to, but my coach has reminded me of something important — how much more healthier do I feel?
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You see, when you go off of measuring different aspects of your life other than the weight on the scale, you’ll find more motivation to keep going. How does your skin look, how do you FEEL? Do your clothes fit better? Can you walk easier?
There are many things that we need to take into account when we are approaching getting healthier. It’s not all just a number on a scale.
We all know that increasing our physical activity is good for us — we build lean muscle, burn fat, and improve our cardiovascular health. But did you know that consistent exercise does more than just that?
Weight loss can improve certain health risks that are lesser-known.
Here are five health risks that get lower with consistent exercise.
Lower These Health Risks With Exercise
#1 – Some Cancers
When we exercise, we are strengthening our immune system. Along with that, we also improve our insulin sensitivity and produce hormones that promote weight loss.
Recent studies suggest that even a leisurely amount of physical activity can significantly decrease the risk of these cancers:
The co-author of this study, Alpa Patel, PhD, of the American Cancer Society, says you can get anti-cancer protective effects when you get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. If you exercise vigorously, 75 minutes weekly would do.
This can be as simple as walking briskly during your lunch break for 30 minutes. No matter if you have 5 minutes or 500, you can chunk away at your recommended exercise throughout the week — it all adds up.
#2 – Dementia
As we age, our cognitive abilities decline. There are several studies that suggest exercise could head off that cognitive decline.
The study specifically notes people who exercise in their midlife can significantly reduce their risk of dementia and improve overall cognition.
Exercise helps you maintain volume in your hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with learning, memory, and emotion. As you age, this part of the brain shrinks and that could contribute to difficulty in recalling information, information processing, and motor skills.
Exercise also improves your metabolic and cardiovascular health — both important for optimal brain function.
Another recent study posted in the journal Neurology found women with a high cardiovascular fitness level had an 88% lower risk of dementia than women who were only moderately fit.
#3 – Depression
Remember the hippocampus that is associated with emotions? Regular exercise has a profound effect on your emotional health, too.
Even from a small amount of activity.
An international study found just one hour of exercise per week can help prevent depression — regardless of age.
This was a comprehensive study and they found people who didn’t exercise had a 44% increased chance of developing depression compared to those who exercised one to two hours per week.
While the researchers haven’t determined why this effect occurs, there are other studies that suggest exercise raises your level of neurotransmitters like endorphins and your feel-good hormones like serotonin.
Both of these prompt feelings of well-being.
#4 – Osteoporosis
As we age, our bone densities change. Osteoporosis is a chronic disorder that affects one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50. This condition impacts your quality of life by increasing the risk of fractures and general fragility.
Studies note that weight-bearing exercise can improve your bone mass density — even in those who have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
That means exercises like jumping, lifting weights, bodyweight exercises, balance, and coordination drills all can improve your bone densities.
The International Osteoporosis Foundation mentions that bones change when they are stressed, just like muscles do. So when your body is forced to bear more weight than you’re used to, your bones respond by becoming stronger and denser.
This happens at any age, but physically active young girls can gain a 40% increase in bone mass over their peers who are sedentary.
#5 – Arthritis
We’ve covered how awesome exercise is for your bones and muscles, but what about your joints?
According to the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, performing regular physical activity helps keep muscles around your joints strong. Your body will also replenish the lubrication to your cartilage around your joints. All of this will help reduce stiffness, pain, and inflammation.
And it doesn’t take a lot of exercise — the Arthritis Foundation notes as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week can keep your joints stay limber and strengthen the muscles that support and stabilize your knees and hips.
That brisk lunchtime walk won’t just make you feel better, fight cancer, improve your mood, and improve your bone density — it will keep your joints happy to.
Just Get Moving
One thing I wish doctors would promote more is getting active. I have friends and family members that refuse to exercise because they are worried it will exacerbate their problems. What they fail to realize is not exercising is making their ailments worse.
So what are you going to do? Are you going to get up and get moving? It really doesn’t take that much work.
The key to getting healthy is to schedule some time to exercise. Just as you would schedule your meeting, block out a time that you can exercise in a distraction-free environment. Don’t worry about how intense you exercise, just get out there.
You can up the intensity and duration of your exercise as you develop the endurance and fitness levels needed to do so.
No matter what you do, starting and consistently pushing yourself to improve is all it takes. It doesn’t matter if you can only exercise for five minutes — it will all add up.