Ms. Colberg is an exercise physiologist and associate professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.A diabetes researcher with almost four decades of practical experience as a type 1 diabetic exerciser, she is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, a professional member of the American Diabetes Association, and the author of three books on diabetes.
The following is an excerpt from a new book by The Doctor's Senior Living specialist, gerontologist, Dr. John Morley: The Science of Staying Young, 10 Simple Steps to Feeling Younger than You Are in 6 Months or Less, written with Sheri R. Colberg, Ph.D. (McGraw-Hill, 2008). Used by permission.
To gain all of the myriad health benefits of exercise, you will need to participate regularly in five types of physical activities: endurance, resistance, balance, posture, and flexibility exercises. This [article] gives you a plan incorporating each of these activities and discusses other things you need to know about being active.
Inactivity, not aging, is the real reason so many of us experience 'inevitable' declines in energy and health as time passes.
Becoming physically fit is more than worth it for numerous other reasons, many of which are listed [below]. For starters, it can greatly enhance your energy levels, reduce your risk of certain cancers (e.g., colon, prostate, and breast), help lower your blood pressure, prevent or reverse heart disease, reduce depression and anxiety, prevent thinning bones (osteoporosis), reverse prediabetes and new-onset type 2 diabetes, and dramatically lower your risk of developing diabetes, even if you have a strong family history of it. If you already have diabetes, being active can help you control your blood sugar and prevent diabetes-related health problems.
- Brain/Emotions: enhanced feeling of well being, improved memory, prevention of dementia, decreased brain atrophy, reduced depression, and better sleep
- Metabolism/Hormones: enhanced metabolic rate and energy levels, greater libido (sex drive), improved immune system function, more effective blood glucose use, and diabetes prevention
- Heart: prevention and possible reversal of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and stronger heart muscle
- Muscles: higher energy levels, better tone, more muscle mass (and prevention of loss over time), increased strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance, and heightened glucose storage
- Bones: greater bone mineral density and prevention of thinning, reduced symptoms of arthritis, and less likelihood of bone fractures and falls
- Cancer: reduced risk of colon, prostate, and breast cancer (and possibly others)
- Longevity: increased length of life and better health
From a metabolic standpoint, it's always better to be fit, no matter what your body weight is. Exercise enhances your body's sensitivity to insulin, which usually results in better blood sugar control, but also a lower risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Regular exercise can also alleviate severe arthritic symptoms that can make daily living painful. It even helps you sleep better, which is especially important since sleeping too little (e.g., only five hours a night) can increase your risk of gaining weight and getting diabetes.
What's more, it cut the risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia that have recently begun appearing at earlier ages in many adults, even well before retirement age. For older individuals, exercise clearly improves brain function. By way of example, in a study of 1,740 adults over 65 years of age who were followed for over six years, individuals who exercised three times a week were a third less likely to develop dementia. However, even in younger individuals, regular exercise is associated with less brain atrophy (shrinkage), and even as little as six months of regular aerobic training can reduce your rate of brain loss.
Exercising makes you feel tired while you're doing it, but its longer-lasting effect is the reverse: it enhances your overall energy levels.
Any activity increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to your brain and results in a reduced cell loss in the part of your brain called the hippocampus, which is the region associated with memory and spatial navigation. So, not only can exercise delay or prevent dementia, it may be able to restore some of what you've lost mentally. Thus, you need to exercise to keep from losing your brain, but also if you've already lost some of it.
Find out more in The Science of Staying Young, 10 Simple Steps to Feeling Younger than You Are in 6 Months or Less Copyright ©2008 by John E. Morley and Sheri R. Colberg. Reprinted by permission of the authors.