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DEC 2021

Why Being Fit Benefits You Health

Put all together, chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Six in 10 American adults have one chronic disease, and 4 in 10 have two or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Health experts regularly claim that exercise is one of the top things you can do to lower your risk of developing one of these chronic problems in the first place, but it’s also important to know that exercise can play a role in managing problems and symptoms you may already be experiencing, says Bradley Prigge, a wellness exercise specialist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.

“If you look at a range of things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, persisting pain, and inflammation — all of these things that are risk factors and symptoms of various chronic conditions — across the board, there is a huge value that comes from increasing fitness and your level of physical activity in your life,” Prigge says.

For instance, aerobic exercise can help prevent heart disease, but if you do develop markers of heart problems — such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure — moderate intensity activity can help stop those problems from causing more serious ones (such as heart attack or stroke).

Strength training builds muscle and promotes healthy joints, preserving mobility and function in healthy individuals as they age. But this type of exercise also helps decrease arthritis pain and can improve glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. Simple flexibility exercises can help improve a range of joint motions, reducing risk for potential falls for everyone.

 And for people with arthritis, stretching eases joint pain and prevents it from getting worse.

What Makes Physical Activity Such a Wonder Drug

Exercise is seen as “pleiotropic,” simply meaning that it has “many effects,” says Shawn Flanagan, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of sports medicine and nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh. Exercise can enhance sleep, protect and improve brain function, develop or maintain bone, muscle, heart and other connective tissues, and promote a healthy immune system, he says.

“Wounds heal faster, medication doses can sometimes be reduced or maintained, and disease severity can be improved considerably depending on the condition,” Dr. Flanagan adds. “The practical benefits are impressive.”

When it comes to the brain, Flanagan says: “Exercise promotes the release of a number of factors that protect neurons, improve recovery from injury, and likely enhance the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.” The blood-brain barrier is the group of blood vessels that control what gets transported from the blood into the brain, making sure toxins, pathogens, and inflammation stay out, and helpful cells and molecules get in.

All those things are important when it comes to staving off chronic disease, Flanagan explains. Neuron damage and inflammation in the brain, for example, are known to happen in people who have multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, for example.

There isn’t a condition out there that “fitness can’t help,” says Scott Parker, a personal trainer in private practice in Los Angeles and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. While there’s a lot of conversation about how to exercise to get a certain body type or look, people can overlook the fact that a huge function of exercise is to maintain and improve our overall health.

Here’s a closer look at how exercise can improve management and symptom relief for several chronic health conditions. And remember, if you have a chronic health condition or other chronic symptoms, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine to make sure it’s safe for you to do and won’t cause further damage.

Exercise Helps Reverse Obesity and the Ill Effects That Come With It

There are a few reasons why increased activity  can help combat obesity. Defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, obesity is a serious chronic condition that affects more than 4 in 10 of adults — 42.4 percent — in the United States.

Additionally, about 19.3 percent of children nationwide are obese.

 Obesity contributes to an estimated 112,000 preventable deaths each year and is on the rise. In 1980, 13.4 percent of the nation’s adults were considered obese, 29 percent lower than the current figure.

“I think that, number one, a major problem is that most people don’t see obesity as a chronic disease, but it is,” Parker says.

RELATED: Obesity Triggering Rising Cancer Rates in Millennials

And one of the first steps you can take to prevent some of the ill effects of obesity (such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which can heighten risk of hypertension and heart disease) is to move. It’s not about getting “thin” or “getting abs,” but about being healthy, Parker says. Even a small increase in activity (such as walking a few miles a day or cycling) can take you a long way toward achieving a healthier weight.

If you are obese, exercise can lower your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, anxiety, and other diseases, according to a study published in August 2019.

 For most people who are obese, losing weight is part of the care plan, and exercise will help you do that.
And according to a review article published in 2021 in the journal iScience, for people who are obese, increased fitness and physical activity is linked to longer life even if you don't weight.

Moving Helps Lessen Fibromyalgia Pain and Improves Function

If you are one of the four million adults in the United States with fibromyalgia, you may experience intense chronic pain all over your body, fatigue, headaches, problems sleeping, and depression.


For people who are dealing with this persistent, at times all-consuming pain, exercise could be a way to make you feel better. Aerobic exercises, strength-training, stretching, and balance training, for instance, have all been shown to help reduce the pain and disability associated with the condition.

RELATED: Drug-Free Ways to Treat Fibromyalgia

A review published in 2017 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, analyzing data for 13 clinical trials that included 839 adults with fibromyalgia, found that an aerobic exercise intervention improved overall quality of life by lessening the intensity of pain, improving physical function, and lessening stiffness and fatigue.

Another study, published in the June 2017 issue of the journal Medicines, found that practicing qigong, a traditional Chinese system of exercises and breathing, for 30 to 45 minutes each day for six to eight weeks not only helped people’s physical and mental health, but also eased their chronic pain and helped them sleep better.

Exercise Helps People With Diabetes Manage Blood Sugar Levels

For the 34.2 million Americans who have diabetes, regular exercise is an important lifestyle intervention that can help manage the condition and stop further complications from it.

Regular exercise is shown to help with glucose control in those who have type 2 diabetes (physical activity improves insulin-sensitivity, or the ability of the hormone to do its job to lower your blood sugar levels) — and it can help lower your weight.

 Better glucose control, improved insulin sensitivity, and carrying less weight all help prevent other problems that are closely linked to diabetes, such as hypertension, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
In 2010, the American Diabetes Association released a joint statement with the American College of Sports Medicine recommending that people with type 2 diabetes get regular physical activity to help manage the condition.

Exercise Can Help Heart Disease Symptoms and Stop It From Getting Worse

Physical activity can play a big role in fighting heart disease, the number-one killer of all Americans each year.

A 2018 report from the American Heart Association looked at physical activity and its impact on preventing and treating coronary artery disease (CAD). The researchers found that structured exercise training — incorporating a fitness or exercise routine in your daily life — can help reduce CAD symptoms, improve blood flow in the heart, and reduce mortality. The increased oxygen circulation that comes from exercises that improve blood flow prevents the kind of plaque buildup in the arteries that leads to CAD complications, according to the research.

Prigge says exercise plays a big role in fighting heart disease. If the gym sounds like punishment, try going for a walk, riding a bike, or doing simple aerobic exercises in your living room, adds Parker. Any of these activities can help.

RELATED: 9 Heart-Friendly Exercises

But remember not to up the intensity too quickly if you’re starting a new exercise program and you have markers of heart disease. Always check with your doctor about a new routine. And if you have heart disease and start experiencing dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, or chest pains, then it is time to take a break and let your doctor know about unusual symptoms. If you already have heart disease (even if it's moderate), some exercises may exacerbate your symptoms and may not be safe.
Read Also :  8 Ways Strength Training Boosts Your Health and Fitness

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