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Exercise make for all-round better life
Health advice
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In the May-June 2010 issue of “Swimmer,” an article based on a 2008 study by Steven Blair, a leading exercise scientist from the University of South Carolina, found that “swimmers had lower mortality rates than those who were sedentary, walkers or runners.” Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Swimming Pool Foundation, the study involved 40,547 men ages 20-90 who had completed health exams between 1971 and 2003.
This study was the first time anybody had compared the long-term benefits of swimming with other activities, and while there were marked benefits for swimmers, swimming does not build bone because of the weightlessness of the body in water. The study did show, however, that there is no evidence that swimming makes bone loss worse. And it does help develop good muscles. Muscle mass usually equates with higher bone density.
Fitness problems, especially obesity and overweight, have reached huge proportions in the United States. Among adults, obesity rates have increased by more than 60 percent in the past 10 years. In 2003, approximately two-thirds of adult men (65 percent) and more than half of adult women (53 percent) were overweight or obese in Georgia and that number is increasing.
Even steeper is the rise in these rates among young people. This is especially troubling since many of the behaviors that lead to obesity in adults are established during childhood. The increase of obesity in our country and state impacts adults and children in many ways — with fitness topping the list. Type 2 diabetes, a major consequence of obesity, is on the rise among U.S. adults and has increased 49 percent from 1990 to 2000. Once known as “adult onset diabetes,” type 2 diabetes was rare in children and adolescents. Today, it accounts for almost 50 percent of new cases of pediatric diabetes. Medical complications associated with obesity in children can lead to hospitalizations for type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and asthma. Since 1980, the percentage of children who are overweight has nearly doubled and the percentage of adolescents who are overweight has nearly tripled. Almost 9 million young Americans, or about 15 percent of all children, are overweight.
Regular physical activity is important throughout life. Healthy lifestyles are more influential than genetic factors in avoiding deterioration associated with aging. The growing number of older Americans is straining the public-health system and medical and social services. Almost one-third of today’s total U.S. health-care expenditures are for older adults. These expenditures largely are due to treatment and care of chronic diseases. The cost associated with many of these conditions could be reduced through regular physical activity.
While the definition of physical fitness may vary among some individuals, most experts agree that there are five basic components of physical fitness. These components involve your heart, lungs, strength, endurance and agility or flexibility. They are:
1. Cardio-respiratory or aerobic endurance: The ability to do moderately strenuous activity over a period of time. It reflects how well your heart and lungs work together to supply oxygen to your body during exertion and exercise. This is also called aerobic fitness.
2. Muscular endurance: The ability to hold a particular position for a sustained period of time or repeat a movement many times. This could be the capability required to hold a two-pound weight above your head for five minutes or the effort required to lift that weight 20 consecutive times.
3. Muscular strength: The ability to exert maximum force, such as lifting the heaviest weight you can budge, one time. It is possible to have muscular strength in one area, say your arms, while lacking strength in another area such as your legs.
4. Flexibility: The ability to move a joint through its full range of motion and the elasticity of the muscles. Americans, young and old, should incorporate regular physical activity into their everyday lives. This does not necessarily mean a rigorous exercise or training routine. It is sufficient to choose activities that fit into your daily routine that speed your heart rate and breathing or increase your strength and flexibility.
5. Body composition: The proportion of fat in your body compared to your bone and muscle. It does not refer to your weight in pounds or your figure.
Physical activity can lower the blood glucose (sugar), blood pressure and cholesterol. It also reduces the risk for heart disease and stroke, relieves stress, and strengthens heart, muscles and bones. In addition, regular activity helps insulin work better, improves blood circulation and keeps joints flexible.
Trying to lose weight? A combination of physical activity and wise food choices can help you reach your target weight and maintain it. All of these benefits can be yours even if you haven’t been very active before. It’s never too late to start!
Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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