A recent article by Gabrielle deGroot Redford for American Association of Retired People has some to-the-point advice we could all heed.

(We’ll skip the information that is gender-specific and extract that advice which is for men and women.)

Did you know that regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancer?

In the past few years, though, according to Redford, researchers have discovered that people who exercise regularly reap even greater health benefits. For instance, did you know that exercise can actually decrease pain in people with arthritis?

Physical activity can be broken into two types: aerobic exercise and strength training.

Aerobic exercise stimulates the cardiovascular system, boosting blood flow to the heart and the rest of the body. Researchers believe many of the health benefits attributed to aerobic exercise stem from this increased blood flow.

The second type of exercise, and one that becomes much more important as we get older, is strength training. Numerous studies have shown that strength training can reduce and even reverse some of the body’s natural age-related declines in bone and muscle mass, even in people who begin a strength-training program late in life.

Ideally, you should shoot for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise most days of the week and 20 minutes of strength training two or three times a week. But you could do less and still benefit.

Small changes can have important health outcomes. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t live up to 30 minutes right at the beginning. Even walking to get the mail and walking in the grocery store counts! And with the bigger stores, we increase our walking, whether we want to or not.

It’s important to realize that even small changes people make in their lives can have important health outcomes.

Here are some of the life-enhancing benefits of regular exercise.

Live longer

People who exercise have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. And, according to a recent study of people 50 and over, those who exercise live between 1.3 and 3.7 years longer than those who are sedentary, independent of the cardiovascular-risk factor. One expert states that our bodies should last 120 years, if treated right. The more vigorously you exercise, the longer you’ll live.

Improve your memory

Studies of laboratory mice show that those that exercise regularly learn quicker, remember better and develop new brain cells. Memory skills were increased after a month’s exercise.

Heal faster

It’s no secret that as we get older, it takes longer for our bodies to heal. But now researchers have found that regular exercise can dramatically speed the healing process. Those who exercise heal about 25 percent more quickly.

Hurt less

Studies have noted that people who suffer from osteoarthritis report less pain and better function after starting an aerobic-exercise program.

Save money

Chronic diseases cost the United States billions of dollars in health care and lost productivity every year. But a study conducted by the Health Partners Research Foundation has found that people 50 and older who exercised for at least 30 minutes three or more days a week actually saved $2,200 a year on medical bills, including doctors’ visits. Now that’s a benefit everyone can appreciate.


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