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10 of the Best Reasons to Exercise

1. Improves the quality of your life. The old adage, “add life to your years, as well as years to your life by exercise,” has considerable merit. A properly designed exercise program will give you more energy to do the activities you enjoy and will enhance your functional capability to do the things you like to do at home, work and play.

2. Relieves depression. Several noted psychologists have concluded, “exercise is nature’s best tranquilizers.” Researchers have found, for example, that mild to moderately depressed individuals who engage in aerobic exercise for 15-30 minutes at least every other day typically experience a positive mood swing within two to three weeks.

3. Increases your metabolism. A person’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy used by the body while awake and in a state of complete rest. The BMR is affected by several things — gender, body composition and activity level. A regular exercise program will help prevent a decline in both your lean body mass and your BMR. Additionally, the need to rely on exercise to maintain a caloric/metabolic rate balance would be lessened if you also incorporate other forms of physical activity into your daily routine (gardening, yard work, house-cleaning, taking the stairs, etc.).

4. Enhances self-image. Research has documented the assertion that individuals who exercise regularly feel better about themselves than do sedentary individuals. Strong evidence exists that all factors considered, the more you exercise (to a point), the more your sense of well-being, personal value and self-esteem goes up.

5. Offers an excellent way to reduce stress. Several studies indicate that exercise dissipates hormones and other chemicals that build up during periods of stress. Exercise also generates a period of substantial emotional and physical relaxation that sets in about an hour and a half after a relatively intense bout of physical activity.

6. Reduces the risk of heart disease. Experts have found that non-exercisers have two times the risk of heart disease than individuals who exercise regularly. Exercise has been found to increase the ability of the blood to clear away clots in the blood vessels. Furthermore, individuals who exercise on a regular basis are at least 20 percent less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack. The point to remember is that your heart needs more than love — it needs the beneficial consequences of exercise (reduced demand on the heart to pump blood, increased stroke volume, lowered heart rate, less wear on your cardiovascular system).

7. Can slow the aging process. It is never too late to improve the functional quality of your life. Sound exercise can slow the age-related decline in the various physiological systems that many individuals experience as they get older. For example, instead of losing aerobic fitness, as older adults often do, typically at the rate of 10 percent per year, proper exercise can increase your aerobic capacity as you age. Furthermore, sound strength training exercise can reverse the loss of muscular fitness that typically occurs in older adults.

8. Increases the “good” (HDL) cholesterol. Exercise is one of the few voluntary activities that is effective in raising your level of HDL — the type of cholesterol that lowers your risk of heart disease. In fact, research indicates that for every 1 percent increase in HDL you experience, you incur a 2 to 3 percent reduction in your risk for heart disease. At the same time, exercise increases our level of HDL, it lowers the LDL (the “bad” cholesterol).

9. Improves the quality of sleep. Researchers have found that exercisers go to sleep more quickly, sleep more soundly and are more refreshed than individuals who do not exercise.

10. Prepares the muscular system for the upcoming (more strenuous) physical activity. Numerous studies have shown that individuals who exercise regularly have better memories, better reaction times and better levels of concentration than non-exercisers. All factors considered, research suggests that exercise can do for your mind what it does for your body — energize and revitalize it!

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