Exercise Use it or lose it
In relation to health, we tend to think of exercise in terms of it’s benefit to our heart and blood vessels. Of course, there is overwhelming research evidence to show that regular aerobic exercise decreases the risk of both heart attacks and strokes. It’s even recommended after a heart attack. Heartbeat in Preston puts heart attack patients through a whole programme of exercises to improve heart function.
But exercise also has many other health benefits. A review of the research on the psychological effects of exercise in the British Medical Journal summed it up in this way:
"exercise boosts self-esteem, reduces mild anxiety and mild depression, favourably influences mood, improves memory in the elderly and calms down stress related conditions" In tests carried out immediately after the exercise, recent research has shown that a period of exercise also improves many aspects of brain function.
Some of you may know Ron Atkins, the former MP for Preston. Ron celebrated his 90th Birthday in June. He is still a Preston Councillor and chairs the Planning & Development Committee. He says his secret is to start the day with a range of exercises including 60 crunches!
Regular mobility exercises also help to maintain joint function and suppleness. I’m a keen rambler and a few years ago I found that I was having problems lifting my legs over styles. The problem was sorted out quickly by carrying out exercises each morning involving swinging my legs back and forth and side to side.
One of the best forms of exercise for developing joint flexibility and mobility is Yoga. After a few weeks of practice, you’ll find you can get your limbs into positions that previously you would have considered impossible!
For bone health, exercise that puts tension onto the bones is essential. Bone is a dynamic structure that is continually being broken down and remade. The cells that make bone are called osteoblasts and they are stimulated into more activity by tension on the bones. So, for instance, walking actually strengthens your leg bones and your spine.
One of the major problems today One of today’s problems is that most of us don’t walk enough. Our cars encourage us to be lazy and we now don’t even have to get out of the chair to change a television channel!
Also, because we generally don’t work so hard physically, we tend to use our arms less. Consequently hospitals have to deal with more fractures. We can strengthen arm bones by doing regular exercises with dumbbells of an appropriate weight. There is also purpose built equipment for arm exercises.
Of course all these exercises will also strengthen and keep our muscles in trim.
We live in an age where there are leisure centres and gyms in every town providing swimming, fitness rooms, badminton courts, table tennis, climbing walls, etc..
If you decide to increase your fitness levels start slowly and gradually build up. Also, if you have had radiation treatment to bones check with your doctor first.
Colin Sutherland July 2006