Why Stay Active?
Many Scientific studies have revealed that a long and healthy life may be directly related to a person’s level of exercise activity. A large number of studies have been done, over years, where groups of subjects participated in various forms of exercise methods in an organized fashion. What scientists try to determine is, if in fact exercise produces any benefits in humans.
During some of these trials, for example, subjects were exposed to same exercise activities, with same intensity, frequency, etc. Scientists would then gather and record various statistical data that they thought may be relevant to issue in question. The hope was that this data would help them to draw some conclusive evidence that suggested exercise participation was linked to any significant health benefits.
The findings from these studies are sometimes used to form models which may be representative of a larger group of people or even an entire population. Many of these outcomes, in fact, have suggested that exercise really does generate very important health benefits. Some of these included weight loss, improved blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels, improved psychological conditions, lower incidences of heart disease and cancer, just to name some.
These scientific studies, however, are small in comparison to epidemiological studies. A large-scale study, for example, may cover a big geographic region or an entire country. Although they are not controlled as smaller ones they may be used to determine many important characteristics of a particular large group of people or a population.
Because there is no way to use controlled environments when dealing with an entire population, for instance, scientists sometimes have to work backwards as it were. That is, they get facts through available statistics first, and then they try to determine what factors may have influenced certain outcomes.
This research method was used in part on popular “Mediterranean diet”, which has been credited with substantial health benefits to people of that region. Others have included Japanese and African studies.
The former showed that people of Japan had significantly lower blood cholesterol levels and lower incidences of heart disease than Japanese people living in Western countries. This study was done with 11,900 men of Japanese ancestry.(1) The latter suggested that certain African tribal people weighed less, had lower body mass indexes (BMI), and more favorable blood cholesterol profiles than Americans.(2)
Not surprisingly, one common denominator in all of these cultures was that their people were physically active. A large part of their daily routine consisted of walking and or cycling. On other hand, in North America major means of transportation is automobile. As a result, North Americans are subject to less physical activity giving them more time for leisure, some of which is spent snacking on various foods that were developed exactly for this type of lifestyle.
This is mostly why obesity is a major epidemic in US and Canada today. Alarmingly, number of child obesity cases has also been steadily rising over last several years. Children, today, are not getting near as much exercise as they did in generations past.
Since root of problem seems to lie in inactivity, solution is clear: We need to become more active. How, then, do we increase exercise participation to adequate levels? What is an adequate level of physical activity? Well, we could start by spending part of our leisure time exercising.
Another alternative is to join a health club or gym - take up a sport such as tennis, golf, basketball, in line skating, or engage in activities like brisk walking, cycling and jogging. The activity of choice, of course, would depend on person’s level of fitness.
Regardless of method of exercise, increased physical activity usually produces almost immediate results. The most noticeable of these is weight loss.
Another important benefit of increased physical activity, which often goes unnoticed, is weight loss maintenance. You have probably realized that most diets don’t tell you how to keep weight off once you have lost it.
Relying only on diet, for weight loss maintenance, especially in affluent Western cultures, is very difficult. The most sensible solution, therefore, is to increase exercise participation.
Americans today, on average, eat less than they did 20 years ago, and yet they weigh more. It’s not hard, then, to figure out: If we’re consuming fewer calories and weigh more, our level of physical activity must have decreased.
Besides helping to maintain weight loss, exercise has been shown to improve blood pressure, cholesterol (lipoprotein) and triglyceride (blood fat) levels, which makes for a healthier heart.