Photo Feature: Summer training

Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010

My Grandmother used to say, "I like to take some exercise of the morning," meaning, she liked to do some sort of physical activity in the morning because it made her feel better the rest of the day.

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Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Kailey Mucha, Ryan Sanders, Rachel Wyatt and Bree Mucha start a drill in Soldotna last week during a training session with the club.

In many ways exercise is the original medicine. The health benefits of exercise are well documented. The list of ailments exercise can prevent, slow down or reverse grows each year. Making a commitment to a regular exercise program may be the most important thing a person can do for their health. Please consider the benefits of exercise outlined below. People who know about the benefits of exercise are more likely to do what it takes to gain them.

* Increases energy at work or school. With more energy, time on appropriate tasks increases, more quality time is spent on projects or academics. You simply have more "pep" when you exercise regularly at an intensity that is appropriate to your level of fitness. Attendance is also improved. The immune system is boosted by regular participation in physical activity.

* Improves self-concept and general well being, decreases anxiety and feelings of depression. This benefit directly contributes to the fight against substance abuse. In fact, the most effective substance abuse centers are now linking education about drugs to a fitness program. This gives patients a positive alternative to drugs, and a tool for improving their self concept. Regular participation in exercise often results in a larger number of opportunities for social interaction in a positive environment. Social mobility may even be improved.

* Helps control weight. A diet that helps you lose weight without exercise (caloric restriction only), simply sets you up for failure in the long run. Not only do you end up losing muscle mass, the engine that burns the calories you want to get rid of, you may also put your body into starvation mode. This results in a more food efficient body, your metabolism is slowed so you have to cut back even more to lose weight. Regaining lost weight is also more likely. Add exercise to your program and you not only burn a few calories, but you add muscle mass. This increases your metabolism, the rate at which you burn calories. You tone up and lose weight. Best of all you can afford a few extra calories and still lose weight. Eating is enjoyable and is the best way to get the nutrients you need. Of course, an increased intake of raw/unprocessed foods and a decrease in processed foods is also an essential part of a weight loss program.

Reduces stress.

Exercise helps you relax which improves your ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Vigorous exercise itself stresses the body and helps prepare it to deal with stressors. The chemicals that are dumped into the bloodstream when under stress are similar to those dumped in when working out. A key element to controlling hypertension (high blood pressure) is a regular aerobic exercise. Hypertension is a prime risk factor for cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke).

Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease.

An inactive (sedentary) lifestyle is considered to be one of the most significant risk factors for CVD only smoking is as significant. In fact, smokers that exercise are considered to be of equal risk when compared with nonsmokers who do not exercise. Of course, smokers are at greater risk of a wide variety of other health problems including many types of cancer. Also, smoking makes exercise more difficult so smokers are less likely to do it. If a smoker stops smoking for 24 hours they improve their ability to utilize oxygen as a fuel by 20%. Hypertension (high blood pressure), being overweight, and levels of high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) are important risk factors in CVD. Physical activity reduces hypertension, helps control weight and raises the level of HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood. In planning your future, part of the plan should be to reduce your risk of CVD. Children with risk factors for CVD often begin to develop the disease before adulthood. By exercising now, you reduce your risk later.

Increases strength and endurance for daily activities.

A person who maintains a certain level of fitness is less likely to become sore or injured from chores or leisure time activities. Lifting, shoveling, raking, etc. are less of a chore. Leisure time activities, such as hiking, fishing, skiing, participation in sports, are more enjoyable and less likely to result in injury. Better fitness, of course, also improves performance.

Aids the growth process and slows the aging process.

Ponce Deleon searched the area near St. Augustine, Florida for the fountain of youth in the 1500s. There was no fountain of youth, but Ponce got some good exercise hiking around and running from reptiles while visiting the New World. Rumor had it that he felt so much better after all that he kept on hiking the rest of his life. He claimed it kept him young! A physically active 60- to 70-year-old person can be able to do more than an inactive person 20 to 30 years younger. Aging slows oxygen uptake, muscle tone/strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, respiratory fitness, endurance, and caloric expenditure (metabolism). Much of this slowing is attributed to disuse, and exercise may slow this degenerative process by 50 percent.

Weight bearing exercises help build strong healthy bones, building strong bones in youth helps protect against osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that results in loss of bone mass and leaves a person at a higher risk for broken bones, even when participating in everyday activities or from a minor fall. Women are more prone to this disease, but men are affected too. Exercise also improves the appetite and aids in good digestion, which helps children get the nutrients they need for proper growth and development.

Not a year goes by without the discovery of another benefit of exercise, usually many new benefits. Every year new medicines are created, new and old compounds are touted to help you maintain or improve your health. People have become tuned in to looking for the "magic bullet" to help them with their health problems and prevent new ones. Some of these supplements and pharmaceuticals are used to help people with the health problems exercise can help them with.

Don't settle for a substitute to exercise, go for the real thing. "Take some exercise of the morning" or some other time of day most days of the week. It is medication you will be glad you took and the cost does not have to break the bank. The benefits are worth it we all need to make the time.

Editor's note: "Focus on Fitness" is a new feature with healthy lifestyle advice from local and national health and fitness experts. Check here weekly great information and tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Charlie Stephens is a retired P.E. teacher and owner/operator of Kenai Sport & Train Inc. He can be contacted by e-mail at

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