Exercise: the Best Prescription
When we were kids, Mom shooed us out the door, saying "Go get some exercise!" Our school gym teacher put us through the ritual of jumping jacks and all those laps around the field. At our annual physical, the doctor’s pen is poised above that lifestyle checklist as she says, "Exercise?" and we try to figure out how much exaggeration we can get away with.
|There is no such thing as a "miracle drug"—but a good pair of exercise shoes might just be the closest thing! |
Yes, we've been told our whole lives that exercise is good for us—but often, it falls to the bottom of our "to do" list. However, these days it is harder and harder to ignore the steady barrage of scientific research that continues to emphasize the vital role of physical activity in healthy aging.
Here is just a small sampling of studies from the past six months that further document the multiple ways exercise and health are related:
- April 8, 2008—According to the Arthritis Association, physical activity is a natural pain reliever for arthritis. Says Leigh Callahan, Ph.D., arthritis researcher from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "Many people believe the myth that exercise exacerbates their symptoms. The truth revealed in the study is that symptoms improved with exercise."
- April 16, 2008—An American Academy of Neurology study suggests that regular physical exercise may help protect against mild cognitive impairment. According to the study, the exact mechanism of this effect isn’t yet known, but more research is underway.
- May 1, 2008—At a recent American Heart Association forum, Emory University researchers reported that exercise, combined with counseling, improved symptoms of depression in heart failure patients. Participants' exercise regimen consisted mainly of walking outdoors.
- June 2008—The American Physical Therapy Association reports that maintaining aerobic fitness through middle age could delay biological aging by 12 years. Physical therapy professor Steven Tepper, PT, PhD says, "If we, as a population, walked briskly 30 minutes a day, healthcare as we know it would change drastically in the United States."
- June 24, 2008—A New York Times article, "Fit, Not Frail: Exercise as a Tonic for Aging" explores the ways physical activity helps counter the age-associated loss of muscle mass, strength and flexibility.
- July 15, 2008—University of Georgia researchers released results of a new study which suggests that regular walking nearly halves the disability risk of elders. Says study author Trudy Moore-Harrison, "We know that walking is good for you, but too many people still aren’t doing it. This study shows that just walking on a regular basis can make a huge impact on quality of life."
- July 23, 2008—Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine researchers released a report, "Exercise Could Be the Heart’s Fountain of Youth," which demonstrated that people who do endurance training end up with "metabolically much younger hearts." Interestingly, the study suggests that in certain respects, women benefit even more than do men.
- August 5, 2008—A report in the journal Circulation claims that light exercise prevents atrial fibrillation—a heart rhythm abnormality that is especially common after age 65. The good news: even walking a few blocks, gardening or dancing provides preventive effect.
- August 13, 2008—Another New York Times article reports on the many benefits of exercise for cancer patients—and its role in reducing the risk.
- August 14, 2008—Exercise reduces blood pressure, says a study appearing in the Summer 2008 issue of Ethnicity and Disease. The report strongly urges physicians to encourage their patients to include physical activity as part of a comprehensive lifestyle modification.
What does all this science mean to you? It means that no matter what your age, no matter what your physical condition, increasing your level of physical activity pays off in so many ways. It turns out that Mom, the gym teacher and your family doctor all knew best!
© 2008 IlluminAge Communication Partners