I am sure everyone’s answer would be yes. Who wouldn’t want a prescription that could prevent diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, which are now being perceived as normal conditions? Who wouldn’t want to reduce obesity and the risk of several types of cancer?
With this question Dr. Larry Durstine, former president of the American College of Sports Medicine, inaugurated the II Congreso Internacional de Actividad Física, Salud y Calidad de Vida “Ejercicio es Medicina™” (II International Congress on Physical Activity, Health and Quality of Life “Exercise is Medicine”™). The activity, which was organized by the Escuela de Ciencias del Deporte of the Universidad Nacional, was held at the San José Palacio Hotel on April 12th, 13th and 14th with an attendance of approximately 200 health and fitness professionals. During their lectures, renowned local and international speakers presented the most recent findings in regards to the benefits of regular physical activity on health.
This “magic” pill to which Dr. Durstine was referring is exercise. For many years we have acknowledged the benefits of exercising but now, thanks to the work being done by researchers from the American College of Sports Medicine and other organizations, these effects are being scientifically proven.
The common goal of the lectures at the Congress was to promote a comprehensive lifestyle change in people by making regular physical activity and a healthy diet an integral part of people’s lives and/or healthcare program.
For a long time aerobic exercise (such as running) was favored since it improves our cardiovascular function. Nonetheless, according to recent findings that were presented by the international guest speakers, it is the combination of aerobic and resistance training (such as lifting weights) the one that yields the biggest benefits since resistance training increases muscle mass, bone mineral density and strength, while decreasing arterial blood pressure and total body fat mass. However, not all exercise routines are for everyone and therefore, it is important to adapt our routine to our health conditions and needs. If you are unable to go for a walk because there is too much dust on the road, take a walk on the beach, on a nature trail or go for a swim instead! If you cannot lift 50 lbs. do not get discouraged, start by lifting one and gradually work your way up. The important thing is to get motivated!
How much exercise is needed? According to Dr. Peter Grandjean, a researcher at the University of Auburn, Alabama, this varies according to each person’s condition but, in general, a “healthy dose” would start with two and a half hours of aerobic exercise per week, along with 30-minute resistance training sessions at least twice per week.
Some interesting facts that were presented and that will surely convince you:
• regular exercise can reduce cardiovascular risk by 50%
• it decreases the risk of breast cancer by 20%, also decreasing the risk of mortality in patients with diagnosed breast cancer by 50%
• it reduces the risk of colorectal and ovarian cancer
• in addition, regular exercise keeps our cells biologically younger, keeping us healthier by delaying the aging process
Many times we have a hard time starting things that we are not used to doing. Usually we make excuses such as “my knees hurt” or “I will start tomorrow”. However, it is never too late to start healthy habits in our life. Let’s use exercise as that prescription that will help us prevent countless health conditions. As Dr. John Quindry, a researcher at the University of Auburn, so eloquently said “the more you can do, without going to extremes, the better the benefits, always remember that anything is better than nothing at all!”
Lessons for Living Longer
By María José Zamora, M.D.
According to Dr. Barry Franklin, Director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise Laboratories of the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, and one of the international guest speakers at the Congress, the following advice will lead to a longer and healthier life.
• Eat wisely and in small portions
• Limit your meat intake
• Enjoy wine (drink moderately)
• Find a sense of purpose and fill your life with meaning
• Embrace spirituality
• Always put family first
• And lastly, the one piece of advice that most of us tend to leave aside: Become physically active!
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