Some Surprising Benefits of Exercise

It’s no secret that the way to put an end to a sedentary lifestyle and improve your health is to simply get moving, says Dr. Arthur Agatston in his book, The South Beach Wake-Up Call. And yet, as he also points out, most of us don’t do it. According to recent statistics, about two-thirds of American adults report that they are physically inactive — that is, they are sedentary most of the time. And only about 22 percent of American adults say that they do any meaningful exercise at all. Even more disturbing is that this sedentary way of life is endangering the health of many of our children as well.

It’s widely known that exercising regularly not only boosts your metabolism and helps with weight loss, but it can also reduce the risk of a host of obesity-related health problems, including prediabetes, diabetes, and heart disease.

But there are some other benefits of exercise you may not be aware of:

Exercise can boost brainpower. Research reveals that exercise can help benefit a vital anatomical part of your brain called the hippocampus, which controls memory. The hippocampus is particularly important when it comes to learning and processing new information. Just as our muscles and bones atrophy with age, so does the brain, along with the hippocampus. It used to be thought that once a portion of the brain atrophied it was lost forever. But a landmark study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that a modest aerobic walking program not only prevents atrophy in the hippocampus but can also make it larger.

Exercise can protect against many forms of cancer. More and more studies show that physical activity can reduce the risk of cancers of the breast, colon, endometrium (the lining of the uterus), prostate, and lung. Of these cancers, evidence is strongest for the protective effect of exercise against breast and colon cancer, two of the most common.

Exercise can help prevent the common cold. There is evidence that the annoying common cold can be warded off by exercise. A brisk walk every day can boost your immune system and help you stay cold free; it can also lessen the severity of a cold if you get one. And while the immune activity brought on by exercise lasts for only a few hours, it is the cumulative immune effect that seems to keep regular exercisers healthier.

Dr. Agatston recommends getting at least 20 minutes of either cardiovascular conditioning or core-strengthening exercise on most days of the week. Another way to work fitness into your day is to simply make moving a must, whether you are at work, at home, or outdoors: Get off at an earlier stop on public transportation; take the stairs instead of the elevator; stand up to take calls; do some arm curls with hand weights at your desk; do leg lifts while washing the dishes; walk the dog (and bring your kids along). The less you sit and the more you move, the healthier you’ll be.

To learn more about these and other surprising benefits of exercise, and make exercise and movement a permanent part of your life, order Dr. Agatston’s book The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call, which is available wherever books are sold. Get your copy today!

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