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Exercise - the miracle cure

By Chris Douglas
Assistant Claims Manager

Leading public health specialists believe that if exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost effective drugs ever invented. It is an incredible tool for preventing so many common illnesses and diseases.

Research has shown the following benefits from regular exercise:

  • up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • a reduced risk of developing many forms of cancer
  • a 30% lower risk of early death
  • up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
  • up to a 30% lower risk of depression.


So how does exercise actually improve our health?

  • Our body secretes natural opiates (Endorphins and Adrenalin) that get elevated in our blood when we reach the peak of our exercise routine. These hormones are responsible for feelings like happiness and contentment, and help fight feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Exercise increases the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) and reduces unhealthy triglycerides in the blood stream. This prevents the laying down of fatty plaques, which in turn reduces our risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Preventing cancer – exercise helps regulate insulin development and hormone levels and keeps our bowels moving. All of these positive effects help reduce the chance of developing cancer.
  • Improves sleep – regular exercise improves sleep patterns. This is important as studies have shown that lack of sleep can shorten life expectancy
  • Improves balance and physical strength - This helps us stay active and mobile, while significantly reducing the risk of falls in later years.


How much should I be doing?

Many people feel daunted by the amount of exercise that it is recommended. This shouldn’t be the case, as any exercise is better than none at all! The current government advice is:

150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (or five 30 minute periods). To be considered moderate exercise, it should raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel a little warmer. Typical activities that would achieve this are:

  • fast paced walking
  • riding a bike
  • gardening.


OR

75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise e.g. running or playing sport and two or more muscle strengthening exercises, such as:

  • lifting weights or
  • working with resistance bands.

If you would like to read more about exercise and healthy living, visit the NHS Choices website, which has a wealth of information on developing a healthier lifestyle. www.nhs.uk