Reduced Risk of Chronic Disease
Regular endurance exercise lowers your risk of many chronic, disabling diseases. It can also help people with those diseases improve their health (see the box “Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults”). The most significant health benefits occur when someone who is sedentary becomes moderately active.
Cardiovascular Diseases Sedentary living is a key contributor to cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD is a general category that encompasses several diseases of the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease (which can cause heart attacks), stroke, and high blood pressure (see the box “Combine Aerobic Exercise with Strength Training”). Sedentary people are significantly more likely to die of CVD than are fit individuals.
Cardiorespiratory endurance exercise lowers your risk of CVD by doing the following:
• Promoting a healthy balance of fats in the blood. High concentrations of blood fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides are linked to CVD. Exercise raises levels of “good cholesterol” (high-density lipoproteins, or HDL) and may lower levels of “bad cholesterol” (low-density lipoproteins, or LDL).
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• Reducing high blood pressure, which is a contributing factor to several kinds of CVD.
• Enhancing the capacity of cell mitochondria.
• Enhancing the function of the cells that line the arteries (endothelial cells).
• Reducing chronic inflammation.
• Preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which contribute to CVD.
Details on various types of CVD, their associated risk factors, and a lifestyle that can reduce your risk for developing CVD are discussed in Chapter 11. To learn more about atherosclerosis, the underlying disease process in CVD, see page T3-4 of the color transparency insert “Touring the Cardiorespiratory System” in this chapter.
Cancer Although the findings are not conclusive, some studies have shown a relationship between increased physical activity and a reduction in a person’s risk of cancer. Exercise reduces the risk of colon cancer, and it may reduce the risk of cancers of the breast and reproductive organs. Physical activity during the high school and college years may be particularly important for preventing breast cancer later in life. Exercise may also reduce the risk of lung cancer, endometrial
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