Physical Activity Basics

In recent years, the interest in physical fitness has increased. Currently more than two out of three americans follow some type of physical activity. For people seeking health, physical activity is as important as nutrition.

Regular physical activity may delay the onset and help with the treatment of many chronic diseases. Exercise reduces heart disease risk by increasing heart size and pumping capacity. Exercise raises the level of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and lowers the levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Both of these effects lower the risks of arteries diseases. Exercise also increases the oxygen capacity of the blood. Exercise helps with the treatment of people with high blood pressure.

For weight management, exercise helps regulate appetite, reduce the genetic set point level and increase basal metabolic rate. For treatment of obesity, performing regular physical activity along with sound nutrition promotes the loss of fat tissue while increasing lean muscle mass. The weight loss enhances the action of the hormone insulin which helps control diabetes, especially non insulin dependent diabetes (NIDDM). Exercise increases the number of insulin receptors where insulin is carried to the cells.

Exercise reduces the risk of osteoporosis by increasing the bone density. Regular physical activity enhances psychological health. It stimulated the production of endorphins that help improve the mood.

A physically active lifestyle promotes physical fitness by achieving flexibility, beneficial cardiovascular changes and muscular strength. A minimum of 20 -30 min of an aerobic activity that uses most of the large muscle groups (abdomen, legs and buttock) and produces cardiovascular endurance is recommended. Examples are jogging, swimming, fast walking, bicycling and soccer. Resistance activities (anaerobic) such as work with dumbbells and exercise machines should also be added to increase muscle strength. These physical activities improve body composition by increasing lean body mass and decreasing fat and hence improved self image and self confidence.