Benefits Of Exercise
Traditionally, heart failure patients have been discouraged from exercising. Now, exercise is proving to be helpful for many of these patients and, when performed under medical supervision, does not pose a risk for a heart attack. In one study, patients between the ages of 61 and 91 increased their oxygen consumption by 20% after six months by engaging in supervised treadmill and stationary bicycle exercises. Performing daily hand grip exercises may improve blood flow through the arteries of patients with heart failure.
Is reaching epidemic proportions throughout the world as more and more cultures adopt Western dietary habits. Aerobic exercise is proving to have significant and particular benefits for people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes; it increases sensitivity to insulin, lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, and decreases body fat.
Regular exercise, even of moderate intensity, improves insulin sensitivity. In fact, studies of older people who engage in regular, moderate, aerobic exercise (e.g., brisk walking, biking) lower their risk for diabetes even if they don't lose weight. Anyone on insulin or who has complications from diabetes must take special precautions before embarking on a workout program.
Exercise is very important for slowing the progression of osteoporosis. Women should begin exercising before adolescence, since bone mass increases during puberty and reaches its peak between ages 20 and 30. Weight bearing exercise, which applies tension to muscle and bone, encourages the body to compensate for the added stress by increasing bone density by as much as 2% to 8% a year.
High-impact weight-bearing exercises, such as step aerobics, are very protective for premenopausal women. These exercises, however, increase the risk for osteoporotic fractures in elderly patients, who would benefit most from regular, brisk, long walks. Even moderate exercise (as little as an hour a week) helps reduce the risk for fracture, but everyone who is in good health should aim for more.
Careful weight training is beneficial as well for older women. Low-impact exercises that improve balance and strength, particularly yoga and T'ai Chi, have been found to decrease the risk of falling; in one study, T'ai Chi reduced the risk by almost half.
Although exercise does not improve lung function (except for intense, regular aerobic exercise), training helps some patients with chronic lung disease by strengthening their limb muscles, thus improving endurance and reducing breathlessness.
A number of studies have indicated that regular, even moderate, exercise reduces the risk of colon cancer. Strenuous activity, in fact, adds only slight or no additional benefit. Moderate exercise may also help reduce the risk for prostate cancer and possibly for breast cancer. A recent study of 100,000 nurses, however, suggested that the benefits of exercise on breast health may be greater or lesser at different times in a woman's life, depending on her menstrual status and estrogen levels. For example, the study found no added protection against from exercise in young adulthood (when the disease is uncommon in any case).