Fitness beginnings: Exploring little-known benefits to exercise

It’s time to start thinking about summer. This season is a great time to relax and spend time with family. One of the best ways to spend time with your family is during summer vacations, but planning for those can be expensive and time-consuming. At one time or another, we have all heard that exercise has benefits. Some of the most common benefits we tend to hear about are how exercise can help lower your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but the benefits only start there.

It may sound funny that exercise can save you money, but a study published in The Journal of the American Heart Association shows that it does. Study participants who engaged in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week had significantly lower health care costs compared to those who did not. Those who had heart disease and regularly exercised lowered their health care costs by $2,500 a year compared to heart patients who exercised little to none.

Exercise can also boost your brain. Numerous studies of aerobic exercise show that it helps protect your memory and helps fight off cognitive decline as you age.

It may also help you live longer. In addition to lowering your risk for chronic diseases that could shorten your lifespan, exercise lowers mortality rates from all causes of death. It also helps slow the aging process.

Maybe you have taken a walk to calm down or relax from a particularly stressful situation. There is a reason for that. The benefits of moving makes people feel happier, according to research. Physical activity can also help lessen symptoms of depression, reduce stress and lower anxiety.

Now that you are ready to take in the benefits of exercising, remember adults need 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week. Children need at least an hour every day. If it has been a while since you worked out or if you have certain health conditions, consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. You may want to start slow. Any movement is better than none. You can also split up your exercise up throughout the day, such as three, 10-minute segments, to get the amount of exercise you need.

For more information on the benefits of exercise, contact the Harlan County Extension office.

Lora Davidson is the Harlan County Extension agent for family & consumer sciences. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.