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The Importance of Physical Activity

By: Amber Whitman

Regular activity, fitness and exercise, are critical for the health and well being of people of all ages. Research shows that everyone , young or old can benefit from regular exercise, either vigourous or moderate. Even very old adults can improve mobility and function through physical activity. It should be a priority for everyone. Millions of people suffer from chronic illnesses, that can significantly improve through activity. Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and high blood pressure. People who are active outlive those who are inactive.

Despite the well known benefits, most adults and children lead relatively sedentary lifestyles. They are not active enough. A sedentary lifestyle is defined as engaging in no leisure-time physical activity (exercises, sports, physically active hobbies) in a two-week period.

Typically alot of older people lead sedentary lifestyles. More than one-third of young people in grades 9-12 do not exercise regularly. They tend to watch too much television.

The cost to the medical establishment is in the billions for treatments of diseases, which could be lessened with exercise. Regular exercise should be 30 mins, 5 days a week. Or 20 mins of vigourous exercise 3 times a week. Physical activity maintains muscle strength, joint structure, joint functioning and bone health. Exercise has an effect on mental health as well, especially amoung young people. It increases the capacity for learning, increases self esteem and reduces anxiety and stress. Sports can introduce skills such as teamwork, self-discipline, sportsmanship, leadership and socialization. Lack of recreational activity may contribute to making young people susceptible to gangs, drugs or violence.

Obesity has become a nationwide epidemic. Regular activity, along with a nutritious diet, that incorporates portion control is the key to maintaining a healthy weight. Public and private sectors need to band together to encourage more activity. Walking programs for schools, worksites and the local community are some examples. The most important change has to come from the individual and families. Every person must realize the benefits of physical activity for the mind and body. Then commit to a lifestyle that is active for the whole family.

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