Preventative Health: Exercise

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It is widely known that exercising for at least 30 minutes per day, when coupled with a nutritious diet, can help you be healthier and fitter.

Exercising confers several benefits to your physical health by increasing your blood flow, thereby reducing your risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. In addition, exercise can help prevent excess weight gain and help you maintain a healthy body weight. Furthermore, exercising can also have positive effects on your mental health. Norepinephrine, an organic chemical made by the body, has an increased production rate during exercise. The chemical can help moderate feelings of stress by enhancing the brain’s ability to cope with stressful stimuli.

Moreover, exercise also releases endorphins, which are responsible for reducing a person’s perception of pain, resulting in a feeling of euphoria. In addition, exercise has been linked to improved memory and increased productivity. While there are numerous activities one can pursue that can be categorized as exercise, with each one serving a different purpose such as strength training or cardiovascular exercise, some popular forms of exercise include walking and running, weightlifting, and yoga.

Walking and running can offer a great many number of health benefits over a person’s lifetime. Walking enables the heart to get stronger, lowers high blood pressure, lessens stress, improve the quality of sleep and perhaps even benefit one’s mental health. Walking helps to tone and strengthen major leg muscles, especially the glutes if walking uphill. And the fact that no equipment is required except for sneakers is an added bonus. Anything is better than spending large amounts of time sitting.

In an article published in “Time” by Alice Park in Feb 2015, titled “When Exercise Does More Harm than Good”, there may be dangers associated with over exercising. The writer cites a research article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which asserted that people who engage in extreme amounts of exercise may actually be “undoing the [health] benefit[s] of the exercise”.

For instance, people who ran “four hours a week for more than three days a week” had the same chances of dying as people who had a sedentary lifestyle and barely exercised. This association held true even when the factors such as age, sex, health history were taken into account. The best results was for people who ran “less than three times a week for one to 2.4 hours, at a slow to moderate pace.” These people had the lowest risk of dying during the period of study, suggesting that one need not go to extreme lengths to improve one’s health.

Yoga is another form of exercise that is growing in popularity, with variations on traditional yoga practices, such as hot yoga and rage yoga, gaining a strong following among millennials. Considering the myriad of yoga styles, studios, and classes available, it can be daunting for a beginner to try starting yoga for the first time. However, even if you cannot join a studio or take formal classes, it is also possible to start doing yoga at home.

As a beginner, one should not attempt advanced stretches or poses immediately. Instead, a beginner can start with any of a variety of basic poses, including the mountain pose, the downward facing dog pose, the warrior pose, and the bridge pose. Detailed instructions regarding each pose can be found in numerous instructional videos and websites online. However, before doing any yoga poses, regardless of how basic, it is important to begin with a full body stretch to avoid injury. Incorrect practicing of yoga can have severe health consequences, including ankle sprain, backache, muscle pulls, and sprain in the neck.

When done correctly, practicing yoga can provide several physical health benefits such as improved flexibility, muscle increased strength and tone, and improved respiration. Furthermore, an integral component of yoga, in addition to the physical stretches and poses, is the intermittent periods of meditation and structured breathing exercises. For this reason, yoga can both help improve physical health and serve as a therapeutic tool to improve mental health by relieving stress and sharpening concentration.

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