The Benefits of Exercise


By Michael J. Barber

Our Medical Director, Michael J. Barber (MD, PhD, FACC, FAHA, FHRS) on why exercise is beneficial beyond weight-loss.

In the United States, cardiovascular disease accounts for more than 600,000 deaths each year and, unfortunately after a sustained decline over the last five decades, its incidence is increasing again. Regular exercise and physical activity coupled with mindful eating habits and a healthy weight are
associated with a significantly lower cardiovascular disease risk. In fact, John Hopkins research suggests that, “for certain heart conditions, exercise can be as powerful as some medications,” according to expert Kerry Stewart, Ed.D. Not only that, regular exercise is associated with remarkable widespread health benefits.

Seven Benefits to Regular Exercise:

  1. Exercise lowers blood pressure. Exercise works like beta-blocker mediation to slow the heart  rate and lower blood pressure (at rest and when exercising). High blood pressure is a known  major risk factor for heart disease.
  2. Exercise is a key to weight control. Especially when combined with a smart diet, being physically  active is an essential component for losing weight and even more important for keeping it off  which in turn helps optimize heart health.
  3. Exercise helps strengthen muscles and improve efficiency. A combination of aerobic workouts  (which, depending on your fitness level, can include walking, running, swimming, and other  vigorous heart-pumping exercises) and strength training (weightlifting, resistance training) is  considered best for heart health. These exercises improve the body’s efficiency and ability to  draw oxygen from the circulating blood.
  4. Exercise can help you quit smoking. As smokers become more fit, they often quit. And people who are fit in the first place are less likely to ever start smoking, which is one of the top risk factors for heart disease because it damages the structure and function of blood vessels as well as damaging lung tissue.
  5. Exercise can stop or slow the development of diabetes. John Hopkins research has shown that when combined with strength training, regular aerobic exercise such as cycling, brisk walking, or swimming can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by over 50% by allowing the muscles to better process glycogen, a fuel for energy, which when impaired, leads to excessive blood sugars and thus diabetes.
  6. Exercise lowers stress. Stress hormones can put an extra burden on the heart. Exercise— whether aerobic (like running), resistance (like weight training) or flexibility-focused (like yoga)—can help you relax and ease stress.
  7. Exercise reduces inflammation. With regular exercise, chronic inflammation is reduced as the body adapts to the challenge of exercise on many bodily systems. This is an important factor for overall health and reducing the adverse effects of many diseases.

Get insight into your personal cardiovascular health with an assessment at Strata Fit.