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Why Is Physical Activity Important

October 13, 2014, 11:00 AM
Why Is Physical Activity Important
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Regular physical activity can produce long term health benefits. People of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities can benefit from being physically active. The more physical activity you do, the greater the health benefits.

Being physically active can help you:

  • Increase your chances of living longer
  • Feel better about yourself
  • Decrease your chances of becoming depressed
  • Sleep well at night
  • Move around more easily
  • Have stronger muscles and bones
  • Stay at or get to a healthy weight
  • Be with friends or meet new people
  • Enjoy yourself and have fun

When you are not physically active, you are more likely to:

  • Get heart disease
  • Get type 2 diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high blood cholesterol
  • Have a stroke

Physical activity and nutrition work together for better health. Being active increases the amount of calories burned. As people age their metabolism slows, so maintaining energy balance requires moving more and eating less.

Some types of physical activity are especially beneficial:

  • Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and make your heart beat faster. Aerobic activities can be moderate or vigorous in their intensity. Vigorous activities take more effort than moderate ones. For moderate activities, you can talk while you do them, but you can't sing. For vigorous activities, you can only say a few words without stopping to catch your breath.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger. These include activities like push-ups and lifting weights. It is important to work all the different parts of the body - your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms.
  • Bone-strengthening activities make your bones stronger. Bone strengthening activities, like jumping, are especially important for children and adolescents. These activities produce a force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength.
  • Balance and stretching activities enhance physical stability and flexibility, which reduces risk of injuries. Examples are gentle stretching, dancing, yoga, martial arts, and t'ai chi.
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Periodic health check-ups and screenings with your health care provider are key to maximizing your chance of living a longer and healthier life. Not only can they help prevent health problems before they start, but check-ups may also help you discover health problems early enough to increase your chances of successful treatment and recovery!

The specific screenings and exams you need depend on your age, health, family history, and lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, smoking, etc.). This week, visit http://www.healthfinder.gov/prevention/myhealthfinder.aspx to find age- and gender-specific guidelines for how often and for what health areas you should seek physician advice. After reviewing the guidelines, consider scheduling an appointment with your health care provider.

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