Exercise – More Than Losing Weight

When most persons think about exercise, the motive is either to lose weight or to become heart healthy. However, Dr Annette Bartley, a paediatrician, CEO and medical director of Children First Paediatrics in the US, makes a good case for the benefits of making exercise a staple in your daily activities.

In emphasising the mental health benefits that can be derived, she notes that exercise is a good remedy to relieve stress; reduce anxiety; lessen depression, negative mood and thoughts; and that regular exercise improves your overall brain cognitive functions.

“As we exercise, we can meditate, relax, re-energise and plan our days, our work schedules and our future better if we have sharper minds with clearer thinking. So, imagine what reducing stress in our daily lives can do for us – we can be more productive during the day, have more energy, we can think better, as well as focus and concentrate better. We are happier, we develop more self-confidence and self-esteem, and we can definitely sleep better – all if we incorporate daily physical activities in our busy lifestyles,” Bartley advised.

Reminding us that being physically active is also a major step towards staying heart healthy, she points to the recommendation given by the American Heart Association, which is to “get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread out throughout the week”.

Expounding on more of the benefits from exercise, Bartley states that it has the greatest effects on triglycerides (one of the bad cholesterols) by lowering them and increasing the HDL (good cholesterol), which is beneficial to the heart.

“To have a greater impact on lowering your LDL (bad cholesterol that can clog your arteries, leading to atherosclerosis, which causes heart attacks and strokes), you need to combine exercise with dietary changes and weight loss. The best exercises to lower your cholesterol include a nice jog or run, a brisk walk, biking, lifting weights, yoga exercises, structured or unstructured sports, and using exercise equipment in the gym or at home,” she recommended.

For those who hate to do rigorous routines, Bartley encourages low-intensity exercise as this is still better than none at all. It is with that in mind that she advises to do what’s possible and try to make it fit with your schedule.

But while promoting the benefits of exercise, Bartley offers a word of caution. She advises that those starting an exercise programme should first check with their doctors before engaging in any high-intensity, rigorous, exertional exercises.

“A ‘check over’ by your doctor may be beneficial, checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, EKG to look at the heart rhythm and a stress test, echocardiogram to objectively see how the heart can handle the increased activity; all may be warranted. So please, you know your medical history best, so Dr Bartley strongly recommends getting your annual physicals in, to be on the safe side, and getting medical clearance before taking on too much,” she said..

She says results can be seen in as little as one to three months, if a consistent exercise routine is maintained.

“The benefits last only as long as you continue to exercise daily. Isn’t this great, to know that your blood pressure medication doses can be lowered, or you can possibly come off some of your medications if your blood pressure is maintained within the normal range” she noted.

Persons afflicted by hypertension stand to gain tremendously from exercise, as it aids in lowering blood pressure if done consistently. Diabetics, too, can benefit from a consistent exercise programme. Bartley informs that regular exercise, combined with dietary changes, can lower your blood sugar by driving the sugar back into the cells.

“Your body’s insulin will also work better at lowering your blood sugar to keep it in the normal range. Overall effects – better control of diabetes, reversing type-2 diabetes in some cases, and slowing down the progression of those diabetic complications of heart disease, HTN, kidney disease, kidney failure, eye disease, blindness, vascular disease, leading to amputations and hard-to-heal sores, to mention some. Diabetes can affect multiple organs and systems in the body, so having optimal control of your blood sugar is of utmost importance through diet and regular exercise,” she said.

[This article originally appeared at https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20210903/exercise-more-losing-weight]