From neurons to hormones: Why your body needs a workout.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.
Following on from last week the next three reasons to exercise are:
- MAINTAINS IMMUNE FUNCTIONING. Your immune system is what protects you from infection and other chemical toxins. The immune system also plays a role in maintaining a healthy response to stress (more on this later). Although for many years, researchers talked about “immune senescence” as an inevitable result of aging, we now know that the studies showing these inevitable declines were conducted on people who didn’t exercise. Even short-term exercise programs can reverse some of the deleterious effects of aging on this sensitive, complex, and crucial regulatory system which controls so much of your everyday health.
- REDUCES BODY FAT. Your BMI, or body mass index, provides an approximate measure of your overall metabolic status. To calculate yours, go to the Centers for Disease Control website. If you’re in the overweight to obese categories now, a regular program of aerobic exercise can bring your BMI down to normal levels mainly by swapping the fat for the fat-free tissues in your body. The good news is that the more you exercise, the more you are able to work off your body fat because muscle “burns off” more calories, effectively speeding up your metabolism.
- KEEPS BONES STRONG. Another normal age-related change is the loss of bone mineral strength. Here again, the magic number of a 1 percent loss per year seems to be the considered wisdom of how fast our body’s bones get thinner and weaker. Once again, though, exercise is the key to maintaining your bone’s health. The specific form of exercise required for bone strength involves resistance training in which you lift weights. The amount of resistance training varies according to your age and physical strength, but it’s got to be more than just picking up a gallon of milk and moving it from the grocery bag to the fridge. You need to spend no less than an hour a week of increasingly strenuous weight-lifting until you reach your maximum potential.