Wellness & Education

Wellness & Education

Think of Exercise as a Gift to Yourself

As scientists learn more about exercise, we discover it is even more beneficial than we ever thought. Unfortunately, the amount of time Americans spend in physical activity steadily decreases as their age increases. This decrease in physical activity with aging results in decreased lean muscle mass and decreased metabolic rate. This then can lead to an increase in body fat and associated health risks, increased body mass index, increased waist circumference, poor sleep, depression and fatigue. Just 10-15 minutes of exercise per day may alleviate these problems, even if weight loss does not occur!

In a survey of more than 800 people, a sports trainer asked "Why do you think you are overweight and/or out of shape?" Forty-three percent of the respondents said "lack of motivation," while 42 percent said "laziness." The survey also asked "What MOTIVATES you to exercise?" The largest portion of respondents (44%) said "Someone holding me accountable." Consider finding a friend, family member or even a pet to exercise with you.

Most people are great at finding excuses not to exercise.

  • Excuse #1: "I don't have time to exercise." Americans average 35-40 hours per week of free time, but it comes in small chunks. Also, the average American watches 28 hours of TV per week, while 64 percent of successful dieters say they watch less than 10 hours of TV per week. Try exercising in 10-minute intervals if you need to and turn off the television.
  • Excuse #2: "I'll have a heart attack if I start to exercise." Actually, the risk of sudden death while exercising is one in 1.5 million. Moreover, regular exercise will decrease your risk of heart attack by 10-50%!

There is clearly an obesity epidemic in this country. In 2008, 24.2% of Oregonians were obese. The medical complications of obesity are numerous. They include: 

  • multiple types of lung disease 
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease 
  • gall bladder disease 
  • osteoarthritis 
  • gout 
  • hypertension 
  • stroke
  • cataracts
  • coronary heart disease 
  • diabetes 
  • dyslipidemia 
  • pancreatitis 
  • phlebitis 
  • cancer of the breast, uterus, colon, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, and prostate
  • gynecologic problems, such as abnormal bleeding, infertility, and polycystic ovarian syndrome

Exercise improves health and quality of life, lowers medical and surgical risks, may prevent cancer, diminishes the need for medications and delays preventable illness and death. If you don't make time to protect your HEALTH now with exercise, you will likely HAVE to make time for ILLNESS in the future.

Current recommendations are that adults aged 18-64 should do 2.5 hours of moderate intensity or 1.25 hours of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week. Increasing your exercise to five hours of moderate intensity or 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity aerobic activity provides additional health benefits. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days per week.

Adults age 65 and older should also follow these guidelines. If this is not possible due to chronic conditions that limit physical activity, older adults should be as physically active as their abilities allow. They should avoid inactivity. Older adults should also do exercises that maintain or improve balance if they are at risk of falling.

Almost any activity counts as exercise as long as it involves movement of large muscle groups in the body. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports lists more than 100 activities. Choose activities that are appropriate to your physical abilities and the season of the year. Also choose a variety of activities to "mix it up" and keep your workouts interesting.

If you have a diagnosed chronic condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or osteoarthritis, or symptoms like chest pain or pressure, dizziness or joint pain, consult with your health care provider before starting physical activity. Otherwise, get moving; think of exercise as a GIFT--to yourself, to your health and to your longevity!

Your Women's Healthcare Associates provider wants to discuss healthy lifestyle choices with you--make an appointment for your annual exam today >

Darlene Dodson, MD is an OB/GYN physician/surgeon who sees patients in the Oregon City and Canby offices of Women’s Healthcare Associates.

This article has been adapted from the original appearing in the newsletter and on the website of Women’s Health Center of Oregon, which merged with Women’s Healthcare Associates on October 1, 2011. Read more about the merger >


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