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Exercise: The best form of preventive medicine

by Randall Neustaedter OMD

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Two-thirds of Americans are overweight/obese (including children), and 75 percent of those people have given up on losing weight. A new study in the August 1, 2002 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine shows that even a modest additional four pounds of weight will increase your risk of heart disease. Being overweight increases your chances of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Control your weight with exercise. “Dieting” is not the best way to lose weight. For most people it does not work, and most people who go on weight-loss diets gain back the weight they lose. The key to controlling and losing weight is exercise. Of course, avoid high-glycemic foods, starches like bread and pasta, and packaged foods with added sugar. Don’t overeat, and drink only minimal amounts of alcohol.

One hour of aerobic and/or strengthening exercise every day is the ideal; a half hour is essential. Walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga, and weight training are all excellent. Participation in sports and activities that involve aerobic exercise such as soccer, tennis, basketball, dance, and gymnastics are especially interesting for children, and all children over the age of five should be encouraged to find one of these activities that they enjoy.

The benefits of exercise have been proven in many studies. Weight-bearing exercise increases bone density and can prevent and treat osteoporosis. Exercise can also prevent and treat heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. It improves sleep, depression, anxiety, PMS, menstrual cramping, mood, and sexual desire.

Consult with your doctor about an appropriate exercise program if you have any chronic disease.

Activities like housework, boat maintenance, gardening, and playing video games are not adequate forms of exercise.

You might want to join a fitness club and take exercise classes or consult with a personal trainer to maintain your commitment to a regular exercise program. Children should join sports teams or take dance, martial arts or gymnastics classes to keep them exercising regularly. The most important thing is to schedule a time for exercise. Life is too busy to rely on random opportunities, and your health is too valuable to let it slip away.

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