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Step (or dance) your way toward better mental and physical health

Step (or dance) your way toward better mental and physical health

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Consider it your personal invitation to move your body more—and reap the benefits in your mental and physical health!

Staying physically active is one of the best ways to protect your health and maintain a good quality of life as you get older. Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of many health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.

Need more reasons to incorporate physical activity into your daily life? Keep reading as our West Jefferson Medical Center experts share some insight about the health benefits of exercise.

How does exercise help your health?

There are so many benefits of being physically active. When you move your body more often by incorporating exercise into your days, you’ll feel better mentally and physically.

Moving your body more often can also help you get to and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise strengthens the bones and reduces the risk of fractures.

When you exercise regularly, you’ll lower your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer and other medical conditions.

Physical activity is especially important when it comes to your risk of heart disease. The heart is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised like every other muscle in the body. Getting your heart pumping through cardiovascular exercise, even as simple as a daily walk, keeps your heart healthy and strong.

Your mental health also benefits. Exercising releases positive endorphins, which is why you often feel better and happier after physical activity. Regular physical activity also decreases your risk of developing anxiety and depression and can help you more easily manage the effects of stress.

Another benefit of physical fitness? In older adults especially, regular physical activity can lower the risk of falls. Falls are common later in life, with one in four adults age 65 or older falling at least once per year. Anything you can do to improve your balance will benefit your health.

How much exercise is enough?

OK, you know that physical activity is good for you. How much exercise do you really need, though?

Experts recommend that most adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. It’s important to note that you may need more physical activity if you have specific health goals or if you’re trying to lose weight.

If 150 minutes seems like a lot of time to carve out, there’s good news—it breaks down to just about 22 minutes per day. You can get in a good workout in the length of time it takes for one half-hour TV program.

That moderate intensity activity can be anything that gets your heart pumping faster, including brisk walking, jogging, swimming or even dancing to your favorite tunes. Along with activities that are good for your heart, you should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, at least twice a week. Round out your exercise routine with some basic balance exercises to help you lower your risk of falling as you get older.

If you’d rather exercise at a higher intensity for less time, aim for 75 minutes each week of a vigorous intensity activity. Vigorous activities take your breath away and make it nearly impossible to talk while exercising. Try running the Levee Path or playing singles tennis.

Still need one more reason to get moving? All that time in front of the TV simply isn’t good for you. A study published in 2015 found that extended TV-watching—the kind you do while sitting or reclining on the couch—is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other common causes of death.

It’s time to get up and get moving. Your health will thank you!

Looking for other ways to improve your health? Start with regular checkups with a West Jefferson Medical Center primary care provider.