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Benefits of Physical Activity

The human body is designed to move and move it should!

Compared to our ancestors we are far less physically active in our daily lives. This is mainly due to our increase in the use of “Labor saving” devices such as cars, remote controls, elevators and lifts just to name a few. Physical inactivity is a major contributor to the burden of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Being sedentary is also a significant contributor to the current epidemic of obesity and overweight people.
Studies show that it doesn’t take an enormous amount of physical exercise to achieve health-enhancing results. A mere 30 minutes a day of walking, swimming, jogging, cycling or other cardiovascular exercise can have astoundingly positive health effects, not to mention contributing to the health of the environment and creating a better society.

Health Benefits

Research has demonstrated that virtually all individuals can benefit from regular physical activity, whether they participate in vigorous exercise or some type of moderate health-enhancing physical activity. Regular physical activity promotes healthy ageing, reduces the risk of dying prematurely,
reduces the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and colon and breast cancer.  Being active also promotes better mental and social health, providing opportunities for social engagement and support. Additional benefits include reduced risk of osteoporosis and reduced risk of falls through improved flexibility, strength and balance.

Why is exercise Medicine?

Decreases your chance of a heart attack or a stroke, lowers your blood pressure and improves your blood cholesterol levels

Cardiovascular disease or chronic heart disease (disease of the blood vessels) claimed the lives of almost 48,500 Australians (34% of all deaths) in 2008 - deaths that were largely preventable. Chronic heart disease prevents 1.4 million people from living a full life because of disability caused by the disease.
Even a small amount of physical activity has been shown to improve your blood cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure which therefore decreases your chance of cardiovascular disease. It reduces risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension) and helps in reducing blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure.

Reduces Diabetes

Physical activity can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. It is particularly effective in the prevention of type 2 diabetes in people who are sedentary. Progressive resistance training has been demonstrated to improve glycaemic control and significantly increase strength in older patients with type 2 diabetes. Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase glucose uptake during glucose tolerance testing and improve exercise tolerance in elderly patients. Physical activity appears to be the strongest predictor in reducing the incidence of type 2 diabetes in the absence of any change in weight, blood pressure or cholesterol.

Improves Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

While chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can make exercise more challenging, regular physical activity may actually improve your symptoms and make it easier to perform everyday tasks. Exercise programs achieve clear improvements in symptoms, cardiovascular fitness, exercise endurance, health-related quality of life and mood in patients with COPD, including those who are over 60 years old.

Reduces disability

An active lifestyle in later life helps prevent the typical age-related decline in functional capacity, which is partly due to inactivity rather than an intrinsic effect of ageing. Exercise is important for maintaining functional mobility and independence and this is critical for every human being especially an older person. Most activities, particularly resistance training, may reduce the risk of disability and hospitalisation, improve quality of life, and allow individuals to retain their independence. Regular exercise can mean the difference between the continuation of a fulfilled independent life or the beginning of disabled dependent life. Even men and women into their nineties can see major increases in cardiovascular fitness and strength with regular physical activity.

Maintains and build stronger bones and muscles

“Move it or lose it.” Regular physical activity significantly slows the age-related bone loss that
causes osteoporosis, and it may also increase bone mineral density and
strength as well.
Progressive resistance training can contribute to maintenance of bone mass in older people.
A study found that tai chi could also slow bone loss - 45 minutes of tai chi a day, five days a week for a year, showed a rate of bone loss up to three-and-a-half times slower than the non-tai-chi group. A study of nurses found that walking four hours a week gave them a 41% lower risk of hip fractures, compared to walking less than an hour a week.

Reduces fractures and falls

Falls are responsible for 90% of hip fractures and 50% of vertebral fractures. Osteoporosis Australia recommends that exercise programs for all older adults should aim to prevent falls by improving muscle strength and co-ordination. Increased muscle strength, flexibility and sense of balance will reduce the risk of falls and fracture. Activities such as Tai Chi are excellent in maximising the benefits of exercise with no side effects. It has been shown to reduce the chances of falls by up to 50%.

Helps with Arthritis

Suffering from arthritis and the fear of pain and discomfort often results in individuals being inactive. However a well-designed physical activity program can decrease joint swelling and pain and improve overall function. Patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee or hip who adhere to the recommended home physical therapy exercises and maintain a physically active lifestyle experience more improvement in pain and physical function according to a study from researchers in the Netherlands. Furthermore, regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight (which reduces pressure on your joints) and improve cartilage and bone tissue health. Despite common belief, physical activity does not cause disease progression in OA. On the contrary, aerobic exercise, even when low-intensity, is effective in improving functional status, gait, pain and aerobic capacity in people with knee OA.

Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer and other cancers

Numerous studies show the protective effect of physical activity on risk of colon cancer, and on the prevention of precancerous polyps in the large bowel. Most studies of physical activity report a reduction in the risk of breast cancer among physically active women. There is some evidence for vigorous activity providing a protective effect for prostate cancer in men. There are a few studies which show associations between physical activity and reductions in uterine and ovarian cancer in women, testicular cancer in men, and lung cancer. One study showed a promising reduction in risk of lung cancer in physically active men.

Improves cancer treatment outcomes

During cancer therapy, a safe and effective exercise program can help increase energy and strength, enhance balance and coordination, and help maintain muscle strength. Physical activity can also improve overall feelings of well-being and reduce the pain, nausea, and fatigue commonly associated with treatment, while lessening the side effects of many drug treatments. Exercise may even keep some kinds of cancers from re-occurring! Discuss with your oncologist/surgeon or exercise physiologist about integrating regular exercise into your treatment plan.

Helps you lose weight and control your appetite

Physical activity has also been shown to have a role to play in the prevention, maintenance, and treatment of obesity, although more prolonged activity is required for weight loss. Regular exercise
improves digestive function.
It is also interesting to note that overweight or obese individuals who are physically active and fit are less likely to suffer early death than normal-weight persons who lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Reduces fatigue and helps you sleep better

Physical activity can actually make you feel more energetic and less tired along with helping you to sleep better. There is evidence that patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) receiving exercise therapy experience less fatigue and have better physical function than patients who do not exercise.
A key consideration for patients with CFS is to know their exercise limits and when to stop the activity. The exercise program should be supervised by a health-care provider or exercise physiologist for at least the first 3 months. A person with CFS could start by walking or exercising on a stationary bicycle for 5 minutes at an easy pace, and slowly build up to 15 to 20 minutes at a moderate pace.
Compared with those who avoid exercise, physically fit people claim that they fall asleep more rapidly, sleep better, and feel less tired during the day. These beliefs have been confirmed, and scientists have shown that people who exercise regularly do indeed spend more time in slow-wave

Improves fitness

Sedentary lifestyles can resultin muscle loss and significantly lowered aerobic capacity.
A large study in sedentary postmenopausal women found a significant relation between moderate intensity exercise and fitness over six months. Women who did just 72 minutes a week of walking or cycling improved their fitness (peak oxygen consumption) by 4.2% compared with controls who did no extra exercise. Women who did 136 minutes or 192 minutes improved their fitness by 6.0% and 8.2%.

Improves post-operative rehabilitation

An exercise program before abdominal or cardiac surgery may improve functional capacity and may reduce postoperative complications, shorten hospital stays, improve quality of life and maximise function (compared with preoperative physical inactivity).

Improves positive mental outlook

Not only does physical activity give you a positive mental outlook, it helps you look and feel better. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of depression, and depression increases the likelihood of a sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise alters brain chemistry and leads to improved mood and feelings of wellbeing. Health experts advise people with depression to try to increase physical activity for its physical and psychosocial benefits. Exercise is known to boost energy, stimulate the immune
system, and enhance metabolism. It also improves sense of self-worth and an improved sense of purpose. Physical activity can be an effective supplement to treatment in mild and moderate depression, achieves a short-term reduction in anxiety, and may also help prevent relapse of depression. It may be as effective as antidepressant medication in the older age group. Conversely, physical inactivity is a risk factor for depression in the elderly. Physical activity should not replace standard treatment, particularly for those with severe depression.

Improves cognitive function

Research has also shown exercise is good for the mind. Human and non-human animal studies have shown that aerobic exercise can improve a number of aspects of cognition and performance. Movement and exercise increase breathing and heart rate so that more blood flows to the brain, enhancing energy production and waste removal. Studies show that in response to exercise, cerebral blood vessels can grow, even in middle-aged sedentary animals.
Engage your brain in learning new tasks, especially processes that you’ve never done before. Good example of activities that challenge the brain to learn include square-dancing, chess, tai chi, yoga or really any new activity. It helps develop agility and hand-brain coordination.
Children’s level of physical activity or sport is positively associated with cognitive functioning or academic success.

Reduces the chance of getting Dementia

Physical exercise has a protective effect on the brain and its mental processes, and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Based on exercise and health data from nearly 5,000 men and women over 65 years of age, those who exercised were less likely to lose their mental abilities or develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s. The more a person exercises the greater the protective benefits for the brain, particularly in women. Inactive individuals were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s, compared to those with the highest levels of activity (exercised vigorously at least three times a week). But even light or moderate exercisers cut their risk significantly for Alzheimer’s and mental decline. In a study of 1,740 adults older than 65, researchers found that the incidence of dementia in individuals who walked three or more times per week was 35% lower than those individuals who walked less than three days per week. According to a new study carried out at the University of British Columbia, 12 months of once-weekly or twice-weekly resistance training improved executive cognitive function in senior women aged 65 to 75 years. Executive cognitive functions are cognitive abilities necessary for independent living.

Environmental Benefits

Walking or cycling for transport is a form of physical activity that can easily be incorporated into daily life for many people, and can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution if used to replace car trips.

Social Benefits

Participation in physical activity has social benefits that impact on the health and wellbeing of all Australians. These benefits are probably due a combination of participation in the
activity itself and from the sociocultural aspects that can accompany physical activity.

Participation by individuals can help build self-esteem and older individuals can continue to be contributing members of society. With children it helps to build social skills and bestows a positive self-image among women. Participation in physical activity may reduce self-destructive and antisocial behaviour among young people.
Physical activity programs harness community resources and mobilise people to engage with their neighbours and community. Active communities encourage children to walk to school, organise local physical activity events and services, and promote neighbourhood safety. Physical activity assists you in enjoying and knowing your local neighbourhood!

Economic benefits

It is estimated that if more Australians were physically active for just 30 minutes a day, the Australian healthcare system could save $1.5 billion annually.
A physically active community would use fewer costly medical interventions, reduce the demand on health services, and contribute to a more productive workforce that is less prone to injury and associated compensation and rehabilitation costs.

A Sedentary Life Can Be Deadly!

How can I get started?

How much physical activity should I do to get the benefits?
The Australian guidelines say put together a total of at least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity (such as brisk walking) physical activity 5 days a week
The amount of activity can be accumulated in shorter bouts, such as three 10-minute walks. Of course you may need to gradually build up to this level.

Need to know more…..

Avoiding Inactivity

There is overwhelming evidence that regular physical activity has important and wide-ranging health benefits. It is said that physical inactivity is one of the most important public health problems of the 21st century. It is very important to focus on your own sedentary behaviours - that is high amount of time that you spend sitting or not moving during your waking hours. There is recent evidence for the relationship between ‘too much sitting’ and with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other prevalent chronic health problems. Sedentary behaviour has been shown to be a predictor of weight gain in women. Modern changes in transport, occupations, domestic tasks and leisure activities have had negative effects on daily energy expenditure. 
Be aware of the amount of time you sit and try to minimise prolonged sitting with 5 minute breaks every hour. Maybe you could hide the remote control?

Aerobic exercise - Moderate intensity activity

causes a slight, but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. You should be able to walk briskly but still be able to talk as you walk. Other examples include mowing the lawn, digging in the garden, or medium paced swimming or cycling.
This moderate intensity activity should be carried out for a minimum of 10 minutes at a time without stopping.
Try walking - it’s cheap, it’s simple and it’s easy

Aerobic exercise - Vigorous intensity activity

adds an extra level for those adults who are able and wish to achieve greater health and fitness benefits. These benefits include protection against
heart disease. ‘Vigorous’ implies activity which makes you ‘huff and puff’, and where talking full sentences between breaths is difficult. Examples include jogging, fast cycling,
brisk walking, aerobics and active sports such as football, squash and basketball.
If you are older or have a health problem or a disability, ask your doctor or health care provider about setting appropriate physical activity goals.

Resistance exercise

(weight lifting, calisthenics) helps to promote and maintain health and physical independence, older adults will benefit from performing activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days each week. It is recommended that 8 to 10 exercises be performed on two or more nonconsecutive days per week using the major muscle groups.

Flexibility exercise

helps to maintain the flexibility necessary for regular physical activity and daily life. older adults should perform activities that maintain or increase flexibility at least two days each week for at least 10 minutes each day

Balance exercise

helps to reduce risk of injury from falls, older adults at substantial risk of falls (for example, with frequent falls or mobility problems) should perform exercises that maintain or improve balance.

Physical Activity for Older People

Physical activity (exercise) can help older people maintain independence, recover from illness and reduce their risk of disease. Muscle mass and bone strength can be improved with regular exercise.
Activities should include a combination of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, resistance training, stretching and balancing. Walking, swimming, cycling, Tai Chi and dancing are all good types of exercise which can also be sociable.
Inactive older people may need to build up their activity level gradually.

All older people should try to be as physically active as possible, in as many ways as they can. We are all capable of adapting to exercise, even those with a previously inactive lifestyle.
Progressive resistance training (i.e. performing movements against a specific external force that is regularly increased during training) markedly increases muscle strength in people 60 years and over, and improves ability to complete everyday tasks such as walking, standing up from a chair or climbing stairs. Resistance training benefits not only the healthy elderly, but also those who are frail or have chronic diseases including diabetes, painful osteoarthritis (OA) or chronic heart failure.
The aim is to achieve at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week.
In older patients, the benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risk of cardiovascular events and in fact reduce functional decline and chronic disease. Before commencing a physical activity program, older patients should be assessed to ensure the activity is appropriate, and to identify limitations to activity.

Exercising with arthritis

It may be a good idea to discuss with your general practitioner before starting an exercise program and ask for specific recommendations and possible changes to your medications.

Select low-impact and non-impact activities such as walking, swimming, Tai Chi, water exercise or cycling.

Make sure you include a warm-up and a gradual cool-down may help reduce the likelihood of aggravating joint pain. Avoid over stretching.

Start slowly and gradually progress the intensity and duration of your workouts. Take frequent breaks during activity if needed.

Spread your activity evenly throughout your day (e.g., three 10-minute sessions). Set time goals rather than distance goals.

Select footwear that is appropriate and supportive for the activity.

Adjust your workouts according to changes in your symptoms.

Some discomfort after your workouts is to be expected, but you should not be in pain.

Avoid vigorous, highly repetitive activities, particularly if your joints are unstable. 

If you have arthritis in your feet, consult with your podiatrist before doing high-impact activities such as walking or running.

Illness/Injury and Exercise

An injury or illness can interfere with starting your physical activity routine or prevent you from maintaining your fitness. Finding a solution can be a challenge. Getting you moving and back on track may require consultation with a health-care provider. Your local GP, exercise physiologist, physiotherapist or podiatrist can be of assistance.

You need to know and understand your limitations so that the condition is not made worse. Instead of focusing on your limitations, look for opportunities. For instance, a sore foot limits weight-bearing, however still allows you to work on upper body fitness and core strength with resistance training exercises. Although aerobic exercise receives the most attention with physical activity programs, flexibility, strength, and endurance are also key aspects of overall physical fitness. Injuries or illness might also provide an opportunity to try different types of exercise. For example, if you suffer with a stress fracture you might substitute swimming or yoga instead of walking or running while allowing time for the bone to heal. Consider an activity that includes mind and body exercise such as Tai Chi which may help while dealing with the stress and even depression that can accompany illness or injury.

It is important to establish a physical activity routine,to set and focus on goals. And remember that keeping active has many benefits including, in almost all cases, helping you deal with your condition better and get better sooner.

Safety First

Most adults, regardless of age or condition, will do just fine increasing their physical activity to a moderate level. However, if you haven’t been active for a long time, it’s important to start out at a low level of effort and work your way up slowly. Also, if you are at high risk for any chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes, or if you smoke or are obese, you should check first with your doctor before becoming more physically active.

Consult your GP if:
If you suffer from Any new, undiagnosed symptom
chest pain irregular, rapid, or fluttery heart beat
severe shortness of breath

Stop exercising if you:
Have pain or pressure in your chest, neck, shoulder, or arm
Feel dizzy or sick to your stomach
Break out in a cold sweat
Have muscle cramps
Feel severe pain in joints, feet, ankles, or legs

Gear up with:

Comfortable walking shoes

Lightweight loose clothing that breathes (natural rather than synthetic fabrics) but protects you from the sun

A broad brimmed hat, sunglasses and SPF 30+ sunscreen

Drink up by:

Having some water before you go

Taking a bottle of water with you and sipping along the way

Warm up by:

Starting slowly

Working up to a pace which feels as though you are making an effort – but at which you could still carry on a conversation (or whistle or sing!)

Moderate activity is defined as a slight but noticeable increase in heart rate and breathing

Avoid walking in the hottest part of the day and vary your route to take in more shady areas.

Activity ideas

There are many ways that you can become active and avoid being inactive. Here are a few ideas:

Join a local walking group

Join a Heartmoves program

Take a Tai Chi lesson

Walk to the shops

Hide the TV remote control

Park your car a few blocks away from where you’re going and walk the rest of the way

Catch up with a friend & talk while you walk

Take your dog or the kids for a walk

Walk to the bus stop or get off one stop earlier

Get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning and stretch

It is never to late -Start Today!