ALBANY — Regular exercise boosts good health in a variety of ways, the area’s top Public Health official said in a report.
“Exercise helps you feel better physically and feel better about yourself as well,” Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Charles Ruis said. “It helps you have more energy. Research from respected sources such as the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mayo Clinic note that regular exercise can also add years to your life.”
Because exercise burns calories, it helps prevent weight gain and assists with maintaining a healthy weight, Ruis pointed out.
“The more you engage in physical activity, the more calories you burn,” he said. “Even if you can’t make it to the gym, some activity is better than nothing. Strive for 150 minutes a week.”
Endurance also improves with regular exercise. Ruis explained exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to tissues, helping the cardiovascular system work more efficiently.
“When heart and lung health improve, energy and endurance also improve,” he said.
Ruis said regular exercise helps combat such health problems and concerns as stroke, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, many types of cancer, arthritis and falls. It can also help improve cognitive function and helps lower the risk of death from all causes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Physical activity such as a brisk walk or a run can also alleviate stress after a difficult day by stimulating brain chemicals such as dopamine.
“The result is that you are less anxious, happier and more relaxed,” Ruis said.
Self-esteem can also improve with regular exercise.
“You may feel better about yourself and your appearance, and that can increase your confidence,” he said.
Physical activity also makes people sleep better, says the CDC. Just don’t exercise immediately before going to bed or the stimulation may make it difficult to fall asleep.
Exercising has been found to keep thinking, learning and judgment skills sharper in older adults. It has an added benefit of sociability – the opportunity to connect with others in a fun social setting such as in a Zumba class or hiking on a trail.
The CDC reports that physically active people tend to take fewer sick days. Not getting enough physical activity costs money, the CDC adds, pointing out that $117 billion in annual health care costs are associated with inadequate physical activity.
Before starting on a new exercise regime, however, check with your health care provider, Ruis said.
“This is especially important if you haven’t exercised in a long time or have chronic health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes,” he noted.