You already know that you need exercise and proper nutrition for good health. You also know to make sure to stay hydrated, and get plenty of rest.
But because every individual is unique, the health tips and tricks that work for one may not work for another. One trick has been shown to apply in every case, though- exercise can actually treat medical conditions.
“…the gym is a kind of wildlife preserve for bodily exertion. A preserve protects species whose habitat is vanishing elsewhere, and the gym (and home gym) accommodates the survival of bodies after the abandonment of the original sites of bodily exertion.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
In many cases, exercise can even treat certain physical conditions and ailments more effectively than medications. Ten of them are:
1- High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a killer. But fortunately, the Mayo Clinic and other respected health organizations believe that high blood pressure is often associated with lack of exercise.
You can make small changes in your daily routine that can deliver a huge difference in your life where your blood pressure is concerned. Regular exercise makes your heart stronger.
When your heart is healthier, it is capable of pumping more blood with little effort.
When your heart does not have to work as hard to do its job, the lowered pressure in your arteries decreases your risk for arterial problems, and your blood pressure lowers. Regular exercise can help lower your systolic blood pressure (your blood pressure top number) by as many as 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury.
In many cases exercise is a more effective treatment than popular blood pressure medications.
2- High Cholesterol
Combining a regular cardiovascular routine with strength training has been shown to effectively lower cholesterol levels. Adding a healthy diet can deliver even more benefits to your cholesterol level, but exercise is great all by itself.
The “cholesterol exercise” link has not always been evident to medical experts. Doctors knew that there was a correlation, but they just were not sure how it worked.
Doctor Amit Khera, director of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Program in Preventive Cardiology, stated it is now clear that exercising can lower your cholesterol by helping you lose weight, and by maintaining your natural body weight, and by lowering the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in your blood.
Regular exercise is excellent for increasing bone density and strength. Osteoporosis is unfortunately very common, weakening your bones by making them more porous.
Frequently a sign of aging, osteoporosis can be combated effectively with weight training and resistance exercises.
Flexibility exercising is also recommended. Building muscle and endurance and improving your range of motion, with exercises as simple as dancing, hiking or climbing the stairs can help improve your bone density and health.
4- Type II Diabetes
In many cases a combination of proper diet and physical fitness can totally eliminate Type II Diabetes. That’s right, not only an effective treatment for diabetes, exercise and proper nutrition can actually remove this debilitating disease from your life.
And exercise by itself, as little as 20 to 30 minutes a day 5 days a week, can show immediate improvement as a treatment of diabetes, because exercise effectively regulates your blood glucose level.
As you know, monitoring your blood sugar level is extremely important if you suffer from any form of diabetes. Exercise builds muscle, and muscles use glucose without insulin necessary.
So if you are either insulin resistant or simply do not manufacture enough insulin, exercising delivers glucose to your muscles and your blood glucose level drops. Start exercising 5 times a week to effectively treat your Type II Diabetes symptoms.
Multiple studies have proven conclusively that exercise is actually the most effective way to treat clinical depression. It is better at treating depression in men and women, children and adults, than any known antidepressant which is currently marketed.
As with recommendations for treating Type II Diabetes, you really only need 20 or 30 minutes of physical exertion about 5 times a week. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good and limit your perception of pain. And continued exercise helps you lose weight, burn fat and get in shape, which makes you feel better about your body and yourself.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include deep muscle pain and fatigue. For sufferers of this debilitating condition, exercise is often the last thing on their mind.
But the simple physical exertion that is delivered through stretching, swimming, tai chi or yoga can actually reduce the amount of pain that your fibromyalgia delivers.
Exercise also restores your body’s neurochemical balance and creates a positive mental state. For most fibromyalgia sufferers, aerobic, strengthening, and range of motion exercises are safe and effective for treating the pain their condition often creates.
7- Heart Disease
Proper diet can definitely help prevent heart disease.
But a recent statement released by the Council on Clinical Cardiology Subcommittee on Exercise, Rehabilitation, and Prevention, in conjunction with the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism, shows exercise plays an important part as well. The research those groups conducted recommends you to practice regular physical activities which use large muscle groups. This could include walking, jogging, running and swimming.
The promotion of skeletal muscle strength and endurance that these exercises provide also reduces symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases. As we discussed earlier with high blood pressure, the stronger your heart is, the more effectively it can combat disease.
Regular exercise that is aerobic in nature decreases your risk of heart failure, increases your energy levels, and improves your circulation so your body can get plenty of oxygen. All of these benefits mean that your heart does not have to work as hard to do its job, and this helps lower your risk of heart disease.
8- Cold and Flu
Keeping colds and flus at bay is often as simple as proper diet and exercise.
Adding just 20 or 30 minutes of regularly repeated physical activity 5 days a week can help cut down the length of time that you have a flu or cold, after you contract one. And it also lessens the likelihood that you will catch a flu or cold in the first place by promoting overall body health, both inside and out.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America knows a thing or two about stress and anxiety. Their number one tip for treating anxious and stressed out individuals?
Aside from improving your physical condition and helping your body fight disease and aging, exercise is recommended by the ADAA as an effective treatment for anxiety and stress.
When you exercise, your heart begins pumping blood and valuable oxygen throughout your body at an accelerated rate. This reduces fatigue and improves concentration and alertness.
Your mental functioning actually improves, and your pain threshold is raised. Receptors in your brain actually make you feel better, and natural painkillers are released.
Exercise even improves your ability to sleep, which is a proven stress and anxiety combatant. Aerobic exercise is the best at fighting anxiety and alleviating tension, while also improving your self-esteem.
The word arthritis is literally translated as “joint inflammation”. However, it is used to refer to the dozens of rheumatic diseases and related ailments that cause stiffness, swelling and pain in your joints and connective tissues.
Doctors have known for decades that the correct exercises can effectively treat the pains and fatigue that arthritis delivers as effectively as medication.
Arthritis drastically reduces your range of motion, especially in your joints. Exercise helps improve joint mobility and muscle strength, as well as overall physical conditioning.
Range of motion exercises, those involving stretching and flexibility like yoga and Pilates, effectively help your body returned to normal joint functioning. This also helps preserve your flexibility and mobility.
Aquatherapy (exercising in water) can help treat the symptoms of arthritis, while taking weight off of the affected areas. You should also ask your doctor about isotonic exercises, which use repeated, lightweight resistance and small weights or stretch bands as an effective arthritis treatment.
And That’s Not All
This is just a top 10 list of health condition you can treat effectively with exercise. But there are more ailments and illnesses that exercise can help you avoid, like chronic back pain, neck and shoulder pain, plantar fasciitis, obesity and many others. The list goes on and on.
Make sure you speak with your doctor before making any dramatic change in your physical activity. You should not discontinue any medically described treatment without consulting your physician.
Top Photo by Brian J. Matis