Article: The Hidden Benefits of Exercise

From the WSJ: The Hidden Benefits of Exercise Even Moderate Physical Activity Can Boost the Immune System and Protect Against Chronic Diseases

As millions of Americans flock to the gym armed with New Year’s resolutions to get in shape, medical experts are offering an additional reason to exercise: Regular workouts may help fight off colds and flu, reduce the risk of certain cancers and chronic diseases and slow the process of aging.
Physical activity has long been known to bestow such benefits as helping to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress, not to mention tightening those abs. Now, a growing body of research is showing that regular exercise—as simple as a brisk 30- to 45-minute walk five times a week—can boost the body’s immune system, increasing the circulation of natural killer cells that fight off viruses and bacteria. And exercise has been shown to improve the body’s response to the influenza vaccine, making it more effective at keeping the virus at bay.

Wake-Up Call for Couch Potatoes
The federal government, which issued its first physical-activity guidelines for Americans in 2008, is developing a national plan to encourage their use. Here are recommendations for adults:
-At least two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
-Aerobic-activity episodes should last at least 10 minutes, preferably spread through the week.
-Additional health benefits are gained from as much as doubling the minimum recommended time spent each week in moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity.
-Muscle-strengthening activities for all major muscle groups two or more days a week.
-Moderate activity can include ballroom and line dancing; biking on level ground or with a few hills; canoeing; gardening (raking, trimming shrubs); tennis (doubles); brisk walking; water aerobics.
-Among vigorous-activity exercises are aerobic dance; biking faster than 10 miles an hour; heavy gardening (digging, hoeing); tennis (singles); jumping rope; swimming laps; hiking uphill; race walking, jogging or running.
(U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services)

How More Is Better
The National Runners Health Survey has shown the benefits of more—and more intense—exercise. Among its findings:
-To keep ahead of middle aged weight gain, runners need to increase their mileage by about 1.4 miles a week annually.
-Compared with merely satisfying the guideline activity levels, running 40 miles per week may reduce the risks of stroke by 69%, coronary heart disease by 37% and diabetes by 68%.
-Marathon runners enjoy greater cardiovascular benefits than non-marathon runners, even when their mileage is identical.
-Exercise intensity is associated with greater reductions in blood pressure and other cardiac risks.

Leave a Reply