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Move It!

Over the past couple of weeks we have been looking at the importance of the ‘basics’ in life. In this week’s article we will focus on the importance of exercise. We all know that exercise is good for us, but most people underestimate just how vital exercise is for maintaining good health, and for preventing and treating a very wide range of medical conditions. A large proportion of Irish people are suffering from illnesses and taking medication for problems that could easily be prevented or improved by regular physical activity.
First of all, exercise can help you to prevent excess weight gain, or to lose weight if necessary. Obesity is linked to numerous health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, liver and gallbladder problems, arthritis, and cancer, not to mention the effects on mood and self-esteem. Being active helps to improve the level of  high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol, and decreases unhealthy (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides. It also strengthens the heart muscle, and reduces blood pressure and stress levels, thereby decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes. Many people have been able to safely discontinue using medication to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, simply by exercising for at least 30 minutes every day.

Physical activity improves energy levels, and strengthens bones muscles and joints. Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently, thereby improving energy levels. Regular physical activity can improve the strength of your muscles and joints, and increase bone density. This is very important for preventing and treating conditions such as back pain, arthritis and osteoporosis. Regular physical activity can also help you to fall asleep more quickly and help you sleep more soundly. However, it is important not to exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too wound up to fall asleep.

Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals, which helps to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. You may feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and may also have a positive effect on your sex life. Exercise also improves the circulation to the genitals, which leads to increased arousal in women and helps to prevent erectile dysfunction in men.

It is important to aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, on at least 5 days per week. Around 45 minutes per day is ideal. However, it is equally important not to overdo it or to push yourself too hard if you are feeling very tired or unwell. More than one hour per day of intense physical exercise has been linked to hormone changes and infertility in women

It is best to start with aerobic exercise to get your heart and lungs working, and to include exercise that strengthens and stretches your muscles. It doesn’t need to be a chore if you choose an activity that you enjoy. If you don’t like going to the gym, try dancing or yoga instead. However, if you have been inactive for a long period of time it might be advisable to start with something less strenuous such as walking or swimming.