By Gerald Blake, M.D.
Where do you fall on the exercise “continuum”? It has been my experience that there are those who are very diligent about their exercising. Some have an exercise regimen they will follow regularly. Some even carry it a little to the extreme – I guess you could say they are addicted to exercising. Other individuals struggle with a regular regimen, starting a program but then stopping after a few days or maybe a month or two. Then there is the group that acts as if exercise is a terrible penalty and should be avoided at all costs! In my career, I have heard all kinds of excuses for not exercising – lack of time, too costly, causes too much discomfort in muscles and joints, and so on.
Why should you exercise?
From a health perspective, a good (and regular) exercise program will help:
- Control blood pressure
- Decrease blood sugar levels
- Maintain muscle
- Help maintain balance
- Control weight
- Improve your sense of well-being
In addition, exercise can provide an opportunity to socialize. Contact with others is especially important for seniors. Most fitness centers, senior centers, and senior living communities offer programs for all ability levels, and many have personal trainers to help you, so even if you have not exercised regularly, there is no excuse for not trying out some of the equipment and classes offered.
More isn’t always better
Enough exercise is good, but too much is not necessarily better. I think those who have a regular exercise program of some type do have longer life spans. Talk to a personal trainer for recommendations of where to begin based on your health and skill level. You may find tai chi, seated yoga or a water aerobics class is a good place to begin. More advanced classes might include spinning (cycling) classes or water volleyball. And don’t forget, taking a walk in nature is always beneficial.
Good exercise programs should to be tailored to each individual, and you should talk to your doctor before beginning a new program. In addition to the benefits listed above, I believe regular exercise gives you a more positive outlook on life. Over my years in practice, it seems those people who exercised regularly were also more active socially with their families and communities.
I’ve heard that before…
I often had couch potatoes tell me they were happy, but I always wondered if that attitude wasn't mind over matter. I often heard people mention they had known others who exercised regularly and died at young age, as well as people that never exercised and lived to a ripe old age! I can’t argue this – I can only say exercise has many positive benefits and may improve the quality of your life.
I will add that with everyone's busy lifestyle these days it is sometimes hard to find the time to exercise. You just have to be dedicated to it and make the time. You don't have to go far to find an exercise facility or classes, or you can exercise at home or go walking or running in your neighborhood. Just keep moving…you’ll be glad you did.
About the Author
Dr. Gerald Blake is a retired physician and founding partner of Raleigh Medical Group. Dr. Blake attended the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (Class of 1967) and specialized in internal medicine and infectious diseases. He was also a member of the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps. Blake is a North Carolina native and grew up in Jacksonville, NC.