What comes to mind when you think about the benefits of exercise? Many of us think “weight loss – if I could just lose that last 10 pounds……” True, regular exercise can help with weight control, but OH! There is so much more! Did you know:
- Exercise can reduce arthritic symptoms such as joint swelling and pain. I love the Arthritis Foundation’s tag line from years ago:
“What’s the best thing to take for arthritis? A walk!”
Here’s why: When you move a joint, a special substance called synovial fluid is released into the joint. Synovial fluid lubricates our joints. Do you remember when Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz first met the Tin Man and squeezed the oil into his joints to help him to start moving again? Think of synovial fluid as that lubricating oil – but it only gets released when we MOVE! The Arthritis Foundation’s website – arthritis.org -has lots of helpful information
- Staying physically active is one of the best things you can do to prevent falls. Physical activity, in the form of exercise, such as gardening, walking or golfing, keeps us limber and strong, both necessary ingredients to maintain balance. Tai Chi is one exercise that has been proven to reduce the risk of falls. Once again, the key is simply to keep moving to reduce your risk of falling. I’ll be writing more about fall prevention in the coming months, but to learn more in the meantime, go to SanDiegoFallPrevention.org.
- Exercise can also help improve your memory and cognitive function. We’re all afraid of “losing our marbles,” but numerous studies have confirmed that if you move while you try to solve a cognitive task, you can actually build new brain cells and improve the neural pathways in your brain. We used to think that we were born with a set amount of brain cells, and that it was “downhill from there,” but now the exciting new field of neuroplasticity has proven that you can indeed increase the number of brain cells if you move while thinking and trying new things. This is such good news! Lawrence Biscontini has compiled a lot of research about neuroplasticity – learn more at FindLawrence.com.
- Exercise can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety and can improve mental health and a sense of well-being. Neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus region of the brain is smaller in people who are depressed. The hippocampus helps to regulate mood. Exercise supports nerve growth in the hippocampus, enlarging it and improving nerve cell connections, which can help to relieve depression. The good news is that you don’t have to run a marathon to perk up! The best approach is to do low-intensity exercise sustained over time.
Obviously, exercise does not automatically alleviate depression, but talk to your Doctor about making exercise part of your treatment plan.
Check out the Mayo clinic website mayoclinic.org or BerkeleyWellness.com to learn more.
These are only four benefits of exercise, but there are so many more! It is said that if the benefits of exercise could be put into a pill, that pill would be the most widely prescribed and most beneficial medicine ever. However, as you well know, we cannot simply take a pill to enjoy those many benefits, we simply have to move!
Check out my website: olderwiserworkout.com for ideas about how to get moving!