Being physically active has a tremendous effect on our overall health. In fact, you might even call it a "wonder or miracle drug" for the effects that it has on our body, mind and soul.
On the other hand, research proves that leading a sedentary life is an open door, a waving invitation, if you will, for many chronic diseases to take residence and begin their damaging effects, mentally and physically.
Yet, despite the many ongoing studies that support this, exercise is being underutilised. It is estimated that nearly 19 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women still fall into the inactive category – meaning they participate in less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week.
The reality is, moving is mandatory. It helps our muscles grow and develop, improves the functioning of our heart and blood vessels (literally gets our blood pumping and helps the heart work more efficiently), a very important fact when you realise that heart disease is the leading cause of death with hundreds of thousands experiencing a heart attack each year.
Valuable hormones are released into the bloodstream when we exercise that help regulate mood and simulate and boost our immune system. It is key to reducing inflammation throughout our bodies, an important function when you understand that inflammation is linked to diabetes, arthritis and many other chronic diseases such as heart disease. It has also been shown to effectively reduce blood glucose levels and plays a super-star role in our mental health.
Although cardio exercise such as walking, running, bicycling and swimming are favoured choices for many, it's important to remember to include strength training exercises. Although all exercise contributes to health in some manner, strength training is the key to building muscle mass, something we all begin to lose as we grow older and must consciously pay attention to and rebuild.
Besides building muscle, resistance type exercises strengthen the bones, tone the body, burn fat and create a healthier appearance which in turn builds personal confidence, an important element towards boosting your self-esteem and interacting with others.
Science has proven there is a deep connection between mind and body wellness, so, if you're looking for a boost in mental clarity and cognitive function, then exercise is your answer. We are now aware of the significant long-term benefits exercise provides us mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It is a whole-body therapy empowered to reduce anxiety, stress and other mental conditions.
Depression is nothing to ignore. This dark mental condition is dangerous and spreads its ugly presence deeper than most realise. It has been medically linked with heart disease. In other words, those with depression have a higher probability of developing chest pain and experiencing heart disease. And, the danger doesn't stop there. Not only is depression linked with heart disease but other chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cancer have been linked to this condition as well. Exercise is the key to combating this mental monster.
And, while it's never too late to begin, it's never too early to begin either. The earlier you start maintaining fitness, the greater are your chances of avoiding and preventing depression throughout your lifetime. So, obviously, the best thing you can do for yourself or your family is to get them exercising!
Whether you are dealing with a medical issue or your current health seems stable, exercise is empowered to improve the quality of your life. It is both preventive and therapeutic. You'll experience less pain while enjoying more energy to play, travel, discover, explore and grow.
Our bodies and our minds do not come with a life-time guarantee. However, it is within our personal power to protect ourselves from mental and physical decline and exercise is the cheapest medical care out there. All it costs is our time, but our return-on-investment is priceless!
Don't gamble with your life. Lack of exercise is risky. It's a whole lot easier to prevent damage than to reverse it. Proper exercise combined with a balanced nutrient dense diet full of nature's colorful bounty is the clear path to living a healthier, longer and happier life. And, isn't that why we're all here?
■ Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.