The thinning and weakening of bones can occur over time. Although this problem is more common in women, it may affect men as they age. This bone loss condition, known as osteoporosis, is frequently associated with an increased incidence of fracture. Exercise is an effective and healthy way to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Exercise during growth enhances the building of a stronger skeleton by increasing bone mass and bone size and, therefore, has long-term beneficial skeletal effects which could possibly reduce the incidence of fractures in later life.1
Regular weight bearing-exercises such as walking, running, jogging and dancing help to stimulate bone formation and retain calcium in the bones that are bearing the load. Regular exercise also increases muscle strength, coordination and balance, while decreasing the likelihood of falls in the elderly. Furthermore, regular exercise helps patients suffering from osteoporosis to continue living independently; and, it also improves the quality of life.2
In postmenopausal women, aerobics, weight-bearing and resistance exercises have all been shown to be effective in increasing the bone mass of the spine. In addition, walking increases the bone density of the hip bones that are highly prone to fracture in postmenopausal women.3 Aerobic exercises such as walking are the best physical options for prevention of osteoporosis. Walking outside in the sunshine not only strengthens the bones, it also helps in the formation of vitamin D, which is required for absorption of calcium from the intestines into the blood. Improved calcium levels in the body help in the formation of stronger bones and also aids in the repair of weakened bones.
- Karlsson MK, Nordqvist A, Karlsson C. Physical Activity Increases Bone Mass during Growth. Food Nutr Res. 2008; 52. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v52i0.1871. Epub 2008 Oct 1.
- Miyakoshi N. Daily Practice Using the Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis. Effectiveness of Exercise for Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis. Clin Calcium. 2008; 18(8): 1162–1168. Article in Japanese.
- Bonaiuti D, Shea B, Iovine R, Negrini S, Robinson V, et al. Exercise for Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis in Postmenopausal Women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002; (3): CD000333.
There are certain conditions of unknown origin which lead to deterioration of cognitive (high-level brain functions including the ability to learn and remember information; organize, plan, focus and do problem-solving), emotional and behavioral function of affected individuals. These disorders result in a progressive deterioration of the ability to perform activities for daily living. At present, there are no curative therapies available for many of these conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which affect brain functions. It is believed that regular exercise may reduce the risk or delay the onset of these conditions in the elderly and that. it could represent an important and effective protective factor for cognitive mental function decline and dementia in elderly people.1
According to a study by American researchers, people aged 65 years and older who did moderate exercise had a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The study revealed that just 15 minutes of exercise three times a week will lower the risk of developing dementia by 30–40%.2
A more recent study released at the 2008 International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease in Chicago showed that people with early Alzheimer’s who exercised regularly has less deterioration in the areas of the brain which control memory.3 Exercise may protect against dementia and declining brain function by improving blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain cells and tissues, inducing cell growth in the brain.
- Laurin D, Verreault R, Lindsay J, MacPherson K, Rockwood K. Physical Activity and Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Dementia in Elderly Persons. Arch Neurol. 2001; 58(3): 498–504.
- Larson EB, Wang L, Bowen JD, McCormick WC, Teri L, et al. Exercise Is Associated with Reduced Risk for Incident Dementia Among Persons 65 Years of Age and Older. Ann Intern Med. 2006; 144(2): 73–81.
- Exercise Slows Alzheimer’s Brain Atrophy. Available online at: http://www2.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2008-07/28/content_6882170.htm. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
Regular fitness exercise can have a dramatic effect in lowering the risk of the most common gynecologic malignancy: uterine cancer, which is also known as endometrial cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, women who exercise on a daily basis can cut their risk for uterine cancer by half when compared to women who do not.1
Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee found in a study that regular fitness exercise as well as routine activities such as walking for transportation or performing household chores can reduce a woman’s risk for endometrial cancer by as much as 30–40%.2 The study also revealed that the uterine cancer risk is higher for women with more body fat, yet the increased risk was partially reduced for heavier women with increased levels of physical activity.
Similarly, the American Cancer Society’s perspective Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort study has shown that light and moderate physical activities, including daily household chores, may reduce the risk of uterine cancer possibly through directly suppressing the female estrogen hormone or by increasing insulin sensitivity.3
A well-planned fitness exercise program can strengthen the muscles around the female genitalia and pelvic floor. It can aid in keeping the uterus in proper position and prevent it from sagging. Furthermore, a study conducted at the Department of Sports Medicine, Norway has found exercise to be beneficial even in the treatment of a sagging uterus.4
- Can Endometrial Cancer Be Prevented? Available online at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/cri/content/cri_2_4_2x_can_endometrial_cancer_be_prevented.asp. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Matthews CE, Xu WH, Zheng W, Gao YT, Ruan ZX, et al. Physical Activity and Risk of Endometrial cancer: a report from the Shanghai endometrial cancer study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005; 14(4): 779–785.
- Patel AV, Feigelson HS, Talbot JT, McCullough ML, Rodriguez C, et al. The Role of Body Weight in the Relationship between Physical Activity and Endometrial Cancer: Results from a Large Cohort of U.S. Women. Int J Cancer. 2008; 123(8): 1877–1882.
- Bø K. Can Pelvic Floor Muscle Training Prevent and Treat Pelvic Organ Prolapse? Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2006; 85(3):263–268.
Our body requires a number of hormones (chemical messengers) for maintenance of good health. In the case of women, two hormones called estrogen and progesterone (also referred to as sex hormones), have a very vital role in the normal functioning of different organs and tissues. Any alterations in the levels of these hormones are known to have adverse effects on one’s health and body functions. Conditions such as water retention, weight gain, depression and decreased sexual desire have been attributed to the alterations in the sex hormone levels. Regular physical exercises might help women in preventing these conditions.
It has been established that regular physical exercise strongly prevents cancer with the potential to reduce incidence by 40% and to improve survival by 50–60% after diagnosis of cancer.1 This effect is particularly significant for breast and colon cancer. Current research supports the beneficial role of exercise in reducing the risk for developing breast cancer and preventing treatment-related impairments.2
Researchers from Harvard Medical School have shown in their study that physical activity after a breast cancer diagnosis may reduce the risk of death from this condition. The greatest benefit was seen in women who walked 3–5 hours per week at an average pace.3 Subsequent to cancer diagnosis, exercise is seen to have positive benefits in reducing symptoms, improving psychological health, managing side effects of radio- and chemotherapy, improving surgical outcomes and in maintaining physical function.1
It is probable that exercise will reduce the risk of breast cancer through reduction in the levels of female hormones. Exercise may lower levels of estrogen and progesterone and lengthen menstrual cycles or result in menstrual cycles in which no egg (ovum) is released. It might also help postmenopausal women maintain a lower weight, which can lower estrogen levels.
Exercise is an effective intervention to improve fatigue, cardiorespiratory fitness and physical functioning in breast cancer patients and survivors. Therefore, exercise may prove to be a valuable intervention to improve not only the quality of life but also overall survival in such patients.4
- Newton RU, Galvão DA. Exercise in Prevention and Management of Cancer. Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2008; 9(2–3): 135–146.
- Reigle BS, Wonders K. Breast Cancer and the Role of Exercise in Women. Methods Mol Biol. 2009; 472: 169–189.
- Holmes MD, Chen WY, Feskanich D, Kroenke CH, Colditz GA. Physical Activity and Survival After Breast Cancer Diagnosis. JAMA. 2005; 293(20): 2479–2486.
- McNeely ML, Campbell KL, Rowe BH, Klassen TP, Mackey JR, et al. Effects of Exercise on Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. CMAJ. 2006; 175(1): 34–41.
A “stroke” refers to the sudden death of brain cells within a specific area of the brain due to inadequate blood flow to those cells. Brain cells need a constant supply of oxygen to perform their functions and any condition that alters the blood flow to the brain can result in a stroke.
Exercise remains one of the very best ways to prevent or to treat the effects of a stroke. Regular physical activity has repeatedly been proven to have multiple cardiovascular benefits that could reduce both the frequency and severity of strokes in men and women.
Studies have found that being moderately to highly active during leisure time significantly reduces the risk of stroke later in life.1,2 Furthermore, researchers have shown that moderate and high-intensity exercise will reduce the risk of stroke by 64%.2 Walking, climbing stairs and participating in physical activities such as dancing, bicycling and gardening were shown to reduce the risk of a stroke.2A Danish study published in October 2008 found that patients who were physically active before a stroke attack had less severe strokes and a better chance of long-term recovery.3
The protective benefit of exercise in strokes is achieved through weight reduction, decrease in blood pressure, and a better blood sugar and cholesterol profile. Regular physical activity of only 30 minutes for 5 days a week has been shown to be sufficient to reduce the risk of a stroke to a significant extent.
- Wendel-Vos GC, Schuit AJ, Feskens EJ, Boshuizen HC, Verschuren WM, et al. Physical Activity and Stroke. A Meta-analysis of Observational Data. Int J Epidemiol. 2004; 33(4): 787–798.
- Lee CD, Folsom AR, Blair SN. Physical Activity and Stroke Risk: A Meta-analysis. Stroke. 2003; 34(10): 2475–2481.
- Krarup LH, Truelsen T, Gluud C, Andersen G, Zeng X, et al. Ex-stroke Pilot Trial Group. Prestroke Physical Activity Is Associated with Severity and Long-term Outcome from First-ever Stroke. Neurology. 2008; 71(17): 1313–1318.
Regular exercise can prevent almost all causes of premature death. . Long-term studies conducted over the past five decades have undeniably shown that minimal physical activity and low physical fitness are associated with high incidences of overall deaths. Recent data also suggest that low physical activity and fitness are associated with an increased incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular (heart) diseases.
A recent study has shown that men who exercise regularly can significantly prolong their lives.1 The study revealed that the risk of premature death is reduced by half by a brisk walk of about 30 minutes for 5–6 days per week.1 Another study published in the May 2003 issue of the Heart journal concluded that men, who regularly perform heavy exercises such as jogging, swimming, climbing stairs and playing tennis, badminton or squash were 47% less likely to die prematurely and 62% less likely to die from heart disease than those who do not.2
The three primary effects of exercise in reducing the risk of premature death are: improvement of cardiovascular fitness, prevention of coronary (heart-related) harmful events and the reduction of excess deaths (mortality). The mortality risk may be reduced by 47% by physical activity, depending on the energy expenditure.3
Physically unfit men have low oxygen uptake and are almost three times more likely to die from any cause, regardless of the general risk factors such as age, smoking and alcohol use. Moderate physical activity not only prevents cardiovascular disease independently of other risk factors, but also prolongs the total life expectancy in both men and women.4
- Regular Exercise Can Prevent Premature Death. Available online at: http://www.enews20.com/news_Regular_Exercise_Can_Prevent_Premature_Death_05362.html. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Yu S, Yarnell JW, Sweetnam PM, Murray L. Caerphilly study. What Level of Physical Activity Protects Against Premature Cardiovascular Death? The Caerphilly Study. Heart. 2003; 89(5): 502–506.
- Birkenhäger WH, de Leeuw PW. Survival of the Fittest’: Effect of Regular Physical Exercise on Health and Life Expectancy (article in Dutch). Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2002; 146(32): 1479–1483.
- Franco OH, de Laet C, Peeters A, Jonker J, Mackenbach J, et al. Effects of Physical Activity on Life Expectancy with Cardiovascular Disease. Arch Intern Med. 2005; 165(20): 2355–260.
Cholesterol is a type of fat that plays an important role in the health and disease of the heart and the blood vessels. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is generally referred to as good cholesterol as it improves the functions of the blood vessels and the heart, while LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is called bad cholesterol as it affects the functioning of the blood vessels and the heart.
The National Cholesterol Education Program states that an appropriate diet, weight loss and physical activity are the cornerstones of therapy for individuals with cholesterol disorders.1 When exercise is of sufficient volume (adequate frequency and duration), it can significantly reduce triglycerides (fats) and help to increase the levels of good cholesterol in our bodies.
Exercise helps to lower cholesterol levels in several ways1:
- Increases the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood, while reducing the amount of the bad cholesterol (LDL); especially fat lost around the waist and abdomen.
- Promotes weight loss and weight control.
- Tones up the body’s circulation, helping to remove clots in the blood vessels and allows the heart to function more efficiently.
An increase in total energy expenditure appears to be the most important determinant of successful exercise-induced weight loss. Therefore, the best long-term outcomes may be achieved when physical activity produces an energy expenditure of at least 2,500 kilocalories (kcal) per week.2 Therefore, increases in energy expenditure through exercise and other types of physical activity is an essential component in losing weight and keeping it off.
- American Council on Exercise, 2001. Available online at: http://www.oasiswebsite.com/images/Alive/Managing_Cholesterol_i24.pdf. Accessed on: 12 Jan 09.
- Lakka TA, Bouchard C. Physical Activity, Obesity and Cardiovascular Diseases. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2005; (170): 137–163.
- Jakicic JM, Otto AD. Treatment and Prevention of Obesity: What Is the Role of Exercise? Nutr Rev. 2006; 64(2 Pt 2): S57–S61.
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Accountability & Commitment Agreement
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Daily Intention Card Sheet
Self Evaluation & Exploration
Don’s Recommended Readings