Most of us realize the importance of physical exercise, but few really understand how vital it is to good health! I would like to help you capture the magic of motion so that you can maintain a physical-fitness level that will stay with you the rest of your life. You were created for movement. From the simple act of walking to the beauty and grace of figure skating, your 600 skeletal muscles (made of more than 6 billion muscle fibers) are there for you to use. These tiny muscle fibers, about the size of a human hair, are able to contract and relax, supporting 1000 times their own weight.
Exercise is an absolute requirement for development and strength. Mechanical machines wear out more rapidly the more they are used. But the human machine is just the opposite; the more you use it the better it works. More people die for want of exercise than through over-fatigue. More people rust out than wear out! If a healthy man is confined in bed for four weeks, it becomes very difficult for him to walk, simply because the muscles used in standing and walking have not been used. The size of these muscles may decrease as much as 50%! “Use it or lose it“is very true for your body. Exercise prevents disease and aids in recovery from disease. The warning is true: “If you can’t find time for exercise, you will have to find time to be sick.”
A regular program of aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming will have many positive effects on every system in your body. One of the most important is its effect on your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. As the heart muscle becomes stronger and more efficient, it pumps more blood with each heartbeat thus decreasing the number of beats required to move the same amount of blood. This lowers the resting heart rate. Did you know that lowering your rate from 80 beats per minute to 60 beats will save you 28,000 beats every day! Your heart rate can be counted by feeling the pulse on your wrist or on your neck.
Exercise will increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of your blood. You will have increased blood volume, increased red blood cells and increased hemoglobin. The blood vessels will increase in number, as well as in their elasticity and diameter. There will be an increase in the white blood cells to strengthen your immune system. And there will be a decrease in fat circulating in your blood. This will reduce your risk of clogged arteries. Your lung efficiency will increase providing more oxygen and eliminating carbon dioxide with less effort. And there is a definite increase in the oxygen delivered to the brain.
Your muscles as well as the tendons will increase in strength and firmness. Agility, coordination, and flexibility will improve. Exercise burns fat and helps reduce weight. It increases your basal metabolic rate. Your bones will become stronger and more dense as well as more resilient. There is a definite decrease in the risk of osteoporosis. The joints will have a wider smoother range of motion. And there will be increased circulation of blood to the joints.
But one of the effects you will notice the most is the effect of exercise on the brain. It will increase alertness, energy, and enthusiasm. Studies have found that exercise is very effective to relieve depression. It reduces stress and tensions and decreases fatigue and boredom. It improves vitality and self concept. It helps to induce sound sleep. Exercise has even been shown to increase your memory.
One of the ways exercise affects your body is to increase the level of beta-endorphin. This natural opioid-like substance elevates your mood making you feel good. This is why so many people say they feel better after some vigorous exercise. These endorphins also decrease pain and decrease feelings of fatigue. Endorphins can increase your memory and enhance your sex life. Endorphins also regulate appetite, blood pressure, and ventilation.
What is the best exercise and how much should one have? Start with a small amount and gradually increase your exercise as your fitness improves. Some studies have shown that 20 minutes of vigorous exercise five times a week is sufficient to produce the beneficial effects we have described here. Outdoor exercise in the fresh air is always more healthful than indoor exercise. Walking is probably the most ideal exercise. Three to five miles of walking five to six days per week is a good level to work up to for maintaining all of the benefits of exercise for controlling diabetes. If you are in good condition, jogging and swimming can also be good choices. Competitive sports often push one to injure oneself and so are not recommended. Also the increased adrenaline produced by the competition does much to counteract the endorphins you are making.
Gardening can be one of the most beneficial exercises for your health as well as providing many of the foods needed for good nutrition. It also exposes you to sunlight and fresh air, two of the other steps to good health. By gardening, I mean not only tending the garden daily. I mean a person who vigorously digs, hoes, hauls, shovels, weeds, transplants, mulches, walks, kneels, squats, bends, lifts, pushes, pulls, stretches, and harvests the garden.
In diabetes, exercise increases sugar utilization and decreases insulin requirements. In Type II diabetes the problem is a lack of receptors on the cell surfaces due to an overload of calories in the diet. Exercise burns up the energy stored in the muscle cells and makes the cells “hungry”. This causes the cells to create more receptors on their surfaces which is in effect reversing the Type II diabetes. Type II diabetes is reversible. But you can’t do it by diet alone. You have to make the cells hungry! You have to exercise.
And you will find that the cure is enjoyable. The endorphins flowing through your system will make you feel better than you ever have before. God’s simple, natural remedies can have you off medications and insulin injections and free of the fears of a heart attack, stroke, blindness, dialyses, and amputation. So start walking today. And don’t stop. Walk till you are full of endorphins and free of disease.