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Benefits Of Exercise

Longevity and Aging:

Exercise, even after age 50, can add healthy and active years to one's life. Studies continue to show that it is never too late to start exercising and that even small improvements in physical fitness can significantly lower the risk of death. Simply walking regularly can prolong life in the elderly. Moderately fit people, even if they smoke or have high blood pressure, have a lower mortality rate than the least fit.

Resistance training is important for the elderly, because it is the only form of exercise that can slow and even reverse the decline in muscle mass, bone density, and strength. Adding workouts that focus on speed and agility may be even more protective for older people. Flexibility exercises help reduce the stiffness and loss of balance that accompanies aging.

Cardiovascular Health (Heart Disease and Stroke):

General Guidelines. Inactivity is one of the four major risk factors for heart disease, on par with smoking, unhealthy cholesterol, and even high blood pressure. Like all muscles, the heart becomes stronger and larger as a result of exercise so it can pump more blood through the body with every beat. Exercise does not increase the maximum heart rate, but a fit heart can pump more blood at this maximum level and can sustain it longer with less strain.

The resting heart rate of those who exercise is also slower, because less effort is needed to pump blood. For preventing heart disease frequency of exercises may be more important than duration. Exercise even helps reverse some of the effects of smoking. Children should be especially encouraged to exercise every day to prevent heart disease later in life.

High Blood Pressure:

Studies indicate that regular exercise helps keep arteries elastic, even in older people, which in turn keeps blood flowing and blood pressure low. Sedentary people have a 35% greater risk of developing hypertension than athletes do. No person with high blood pressure should start an exercise program without consulting a physician. Studies have shown that high-intensity exercise may not lower blood pressure as effectively as moderate intensity exercise.

In one study, for example, moderate exercise (jogging two miles a day) controlled hypertension so well that more than half the patients who had been taking drugs for high blood pressure were able to discontinue their medication. Studies have indicated that T'ai Chi, an ancient Chinese exercise involving slow, relaxing movements may lower blood pressure almost as well as moderate-intensity aerobic exercises. Before exercising, people with hypertension should avoid caffeinated beverages, which increase heart rate, the workload of the heart, and blood pressure during physical activity.

Stroke:

The benefits of exercise on stroke are uncertain. According to one analysis, a group of 11,000 men, men who burned between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a week (about an hour of brisk walking five days a week) cut their risk of stroke in half. Groups who burned between 1,000 and 2,000 calories or more than 3,000 calories per week also gained some protection against stroke but to a lesser degree. In the same study, exercise that involved recreation was more protective than exercise routines consisting simply of walking or climbing.

 

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