Sweat: It’s Good for What Ails You

Need more incentive before you put on your sneakers and dust off your stationary bike? An active lifestyle can prevent and even help with a wide variety of diseases.

Many health experts now advise everyone to be active at least 30 minutes every day, from light activities, such as walking, to more intensive workouts, such as aerobics. Don’t be afraid to break out in a sweat—you won’t regret it.

Arthritis

If you’re one of the 4 million Canadians (about two-thirds of them women) who have arthritis, exercise can help reduce the pain and inflammation and preserve or restore range of motion and flexibility in each affected joint. Low-impact aerobic exercises like swimming, walking, and bicycling are ideal for arthritis patients.

Depression

If you’re suffering from the blues, don’t be surprised if your doctor scribbles out a prescription that reads, “Take an exercise class.” Research done at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, shows that regular exercise can have longer-lasting benefits than antidepressant medication. The study involved 156 people ages 50 and older who had been diagnosed with depression. Researchers found that the people who exercised were much less likely to have suffered a depression relapse than those in the medication group or the medication-plus-exercise group.

Diabetes

Exercise can help people suffering from diabetes. According to researchers at Brigham Young University, exercise activates a gene that tells the body to make more of a protein that carries glucose to muscles. What sparks the process is an enzyme released when muscles contract. This explains why diabetics who exercise regularly are sometimes able to reduce their need for medication and maintain a normal immune system. Exercise also helps delay or stop cardiovascular disease plus help them control their weight.

Heart Disease

We know working out strengthens the heart but it can also protect it by raising the level of the brain chemical serotonin, best known for its ability to affect mood and personality but also shown to influence heart disease risk. When people with low serotonin levels experience stress, it seems to prompt the immune system to produce more cytokines that contribute to atherosclerosis, a buildup of fat in the arteries that can lead to a heart attack. Working up a sweat can reduce your body’s response to stress and help your heart.

Impotence

New findings confirm that even minimal exercise can help men enjoy a healthy sex life as they age. After studying the habits of 593 men for nine-years, scientists at the New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Massachusettsfound  that men who burned at least 200 calories a day through exercise—the equivalent of a brisk two-mile walk—were far less likely to develop impotence than inactive men. The more exercise they did, the lower the risk became.

Ulcers

Experts used to blame ulcers on stress. But now it’s clear that about 80 percent of the holes or breaks in the protective mucous lining of the stomach or duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine) are caused by a bacterium, Helicobacter pylori. Surprisingly, exercising seems to protect against at least some ulcers. An analysis of 20 years of health records from 11,000 people showed that those who walked or ran at least 16 kilometers a week were 62 percent less likely than inactive subjects to develop a duodenal ulcer.

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