Subjects: Behavioral health
Many people know that regular physical activity can reduce perceived stress, blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
It turns out there are many more benefits than that.
For example, regular exercise can increase the body’s capacity to prevent viral and bacterial infections, and boost the body’s response to the influenza vaccine, making it more effective.
It probably reduces cancer risk as well.
David Nieman, of Appalachian State University has published several randomized trials showing for example that people who walk briskly for 45 minutes, 5 days per week have fewer and less severe upper respiratory tract infections, and 25-50% fewer sick days than sedentary controls.
“No pill or nutritional supplement has the power of near-daily moderate activity in lowering the number of sick days people take,” Nieman told the Wall Street Journal.
Other studies suggest that regular exercise reduces breast cancer risk by 20-30%, and that for patients with hormone-responsive breast cancer, walking for 3-5 hours per week cuts mortality in half.
Still other research shows that exercise retards aging processes like telomere shortening. Telomeres are DNA strands at the tips of chromosomes. When they become too short, cells can’t divide and trigger biochemical processes associated with aging, cancer formation and death.
Two years ago, the Department of Health and Services issued national exercise guidelines for the first time. The guidelines recommend 2 ½ hours per week of moderate aerobic exercise, or 1 ¼ hour per week of vigorous exercise. The guidelines say that additional health benefits accrue to those who double these amounts. They also call for muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week.
According to the CDC, 36% of US adults undertook no leisure-time physical activity in 2008.