Take charge of your health: Why exercise is so important

We’re living in an exciting age that sees conventional wisdom being given a bloody nose almost daily, and although there may not be a cure for the common cold, yet, an overwhelming body of recent research has found that we do have a magic silver bullet that will protect us from the ravages of disease.

Exercise and nutrition play a vital role in protecting humans from illness and debilitating disease. There are as many reasons to exercise as there are days in the year, but it’s so true that regular exercise offers protective qualities across the full age, gender, ability and lifestyle disease spectrum.

Exercise protects you from certain types of cancers

Another great benefit of exercise is the reduced risk of certain cancers, including colon, breast and lung cancer. Moderate to vigorous exercise offers the best protection and those who exerciser have a 30% to 40% reduced risk for colon cancer as opposed to non-exercisers. Studies also suggest that modifying our lifestyles can reduce the threat of cancer. By eating a healthy diet, staying at a healthy weight, exercising, watching your alcohol intake and quitting smoking, you may protect yourself from cancer.

Exercise tips for cancer patients

If you have cancer or any other chronic disease, you will of course need to tailor your exercise routine to your individual circumstances. Take into account your fitness level and your current state of health. Often, you will be able to take part in a regular exercise program – one that involves a variety of exercises like walking, which offers cardio-vascular benefits, strength training, core-building and stretching, with very little changes necessary. However, at times you may find you need to exercise at a lower intensity, or for shorter durations.

Always listen to your body and if you feel you need a break, take time to rest.

Just remember that exercising for just a few minutes a day is better than not exercising at all. You are likely to find that your stamina increases and that you’re able to complete more challenging workouts with each passing day. If you are suffering from a very weakened immune system, you may want to exercise at home instead of visiting a public facility. But remember that exercise will ultimately help to boost your immune system, so it’s very important to continue with your program, even if you suffer from chronic illness or cancer.

That said, if your body will not allow you to exercise, either due to pain or the worsening of your underlying condition, then you have no practical option but to honour your body’s signals and exercise less. Even though your body desperately needs the exercise to improve, you will only get worse if you violate your current limitations.

How much exercise is too much?

According to the American Council of Sports Medicine national activity guidelines, a good goal is to exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. To get the most benefit, though, aim for about an hour a day. Moderate-intensity activities such as brisk walking may be sufficient, although there is more benefit with increased intensity.

Get up off the couch!

It’s easier than you think! Only half an hour of physical activity daily such as walking, slow swimming, leisurely bike riding or golfing without a cart will get you started.

Here are some other ways to be more active:

• Use stairs rather than an elevator.

• Walk to your destination, and walk around the block after dinner. The dog will love you for it too!

• Exercise at lunch with your family or friends.

• Go dancing.

• Wear a pedometer every day and watch your daily steps increase.

• Use a stationary bike or do sit-ups, leg lifts and push-ups while watching TV.

• Park a little further from your office, the shops or the library for a nice walk.

• When the weather is bad, grab a partner and walk in a shopping centre. Just leave your credit card at home!

Often people view exercise narrowly as a way to lose weight, or to look better. These incentives can be effective, but exercise is really about a person taking charge of his or her health and preventing chronic diseases like cancer and living longer.

Written by Ray Bienedell