University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Benefits of Physical Activity

Risha Hertz, APNC, discusses the numerous health benefits of keeping an active lifestyle. Risha practices at Penn Family Medicine Gibbsboro.

The Benefits of Physical Activity
Risha Hertz, APNC
For many of us, as kids, our parents probably sounded like a broken record: Go outside and play! Sitting inside and watching television is not good for your health.

As it turns out, they were right. Being sedentary or not really engaging in any physical exertion, can take a toll:

“Regular physical activity greatly helps many of the body’s systems function better,” said Risha Hertz, APNC. “For those that aren’t very active, they face increased chances of becoming overweight and developing a number of chronic diseases.”

“For my patients that are just becoming more active, it is a joy to see the positive effects just days into their individualized activity program.”

Below are just a few of the benefits of regular exercise and living a healthy lifestyle.

Controls weight and improves appearance. Perhaps most important, exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help you to maintain weight loss. Adding muscle also helps your body look lean and toned. Exercise also makes you sweat, which purges the body of toxins that can clog pores and plague your skin with pimples and blemishes.

Strengthens mental acuity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research has shown that doing aerobics or a mix of aerobics and muscle-strengthening activities three to five times a week gives you numerous mental health benefits. Regular physical activity can help improve your thinking, learning, concentration and reaction time as you age. It can also reduce the risk of depression and may help you sleep better.

Gives you an energy boost. Exercise and physical activity transport oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. When your lungs and heart are working more efficiently, you have more energy.

Reduces risk of injury. Exercise is critical for strong muscles and bones. As you age, muscle strength declines, but studies show that people who exercise on a regular basis are stronger and leaner than others in their age group. Because muscles act as both cushions and shock absorbers for your joints, strong muscles help to protect joints, improve balance and can help reduce the pain of arthritis.

Reduce risk of disease. Two of the leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease and stroke. Living an active lifestyle increases your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This combination, which helps blood flow, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular activity can also help prevent a number of other health concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, some types of cancer and arthritis.

Now that you know the positive effects of living an active lifestyle, how do you get started?

“At Penn Medicine, we partner with our patients to develop individualized activity programs that will work for them,” said Hertz. “Many think that they have to go to the gym for half an hour to an hour and perform weight lifting and cardio. Formal activity is great, but is not for everyone. My patients and I explore ways in which they can become more active throughout the day as much as possible.”

If you haven’t exercised consistently in some time, you might want to talk to your primary care doctor first.


Already a Penn patient? Use Penn’s Goals for Healthy Living worksheet at your next primary care appointment to help determine and track your activity goals.


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