|Step 2: The benefits of exercise|
Exercise begins to have a positive effect almost as soon as you start. For one thing, exercise makes your brain release "endorphins" -- hormones that make you feel good. This can help you enjoy the exercise and may improve your mood for several hours after your workout. Another benefit is that your muscles, having worked hard, can relax more easily. This helps you feel relaxed all over. And, of course, you'll probably feel good about what you are doing for yourself.
The benefits of being in shape
In addition to the immediate rewards, there are many possible long-term benefits to reap from a more active lifestyle. Over time, your muscles will get stronger. Your heart and lungs will get stronger, too, and work more efficiently. Your bones will become denser, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Endurance increases, making most physical activities easier. And balance improves, lowering the risk of falls and fractures as you get older. You are also likely to experience less anxiety and depression and feel more self-assured.
Prevent and manage chronic diseases
Regular exercise can help PREVENT high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and, possibly, stroke. You are also taking steps to reduce your risk of some forms of cancer, such as colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Research has also shown that exercise benefits people with mild-to-moderate depression.
Exercise can also help you manage certain chronic conditions, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and depression. Further, your blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate all may drop to healthier levels. Talk to your doctor about what is safe and best for you.
Exercise helps you shed extra pounds, particularly from fat, and, more importantly, tone muscles to increase your body's fitness. You're likely to experience less hunger. In addition, your metabolism will probably increase (the system that regulates how many calories you burn while resting), making it easier to stay lean.
"My doctor told me that I should exercise regularly, but I couldn't have predicted all the ways that it would influence my life. Not only do I feel better physically, but I am more outgoing, optimistic, and feel better about myself than I did before I started."
-- Richard, age 49
Reviewed By: Jeffrey Heit, MD, Internist with special emphasis on preventive health, fitness and nutrition, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.