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Exercise as Part of Routine Health Care

ONE lifestyle factor that significantly affects our health, yet often slips off the list of priorities, is exercise.


There are many reasons to make exercise part of our routine health-care practice. The Journal of Applied Physiology provides some facts of interest regarding exercise in the United States: –250,000 deaths per year are related to inactivity.


–Inactivity promotes chronic disease at a cost of nearly half a trillion dollars per year.

 –People who are obese but active have a lower morbidity (disease states) and mortality than people who are of normal weight but inactive.

 –Women are less active then men, with only 20% participating in regular vigorous physical activity.

 –Only 32% of men and women meet guidelines for regular physical activity.


PEOPLE cite a variety of reasons for their lack of exercise, such as time constraints, household and child-care responsibilities, poor health, low energy and poor motivation. Some cite lack of social support, neighborhood safety issues and inadequate facilities as reasons not to exercise. I always urge people to look carefully at any excuse for not exercising and then begin a program that is realistic, even if it’s just isometric exercise because of physical limitations.

Exercise benefits everybody. It enhances mood, decreases stress, improves cognition and helps eliminate unwanted pounds. If weight loss is a concern, bear in mind that of all the possible weight-loss plans you might consider, exercise is the only element that shows consistent results.


Studies show that exercise improves heart health, cholesterol status, blood pressure, quality of life and life span. Exercise also prevents osteoporosis in both men and women and reduces the risk of cancer. Specifically, regular exercise reduces the risk of colon cancer by 50%, and uterine cancer by 80%. In menopausal women, regular exercise reduces the incidence of hot flashes.


IF you’re just starting up an exercise routine, several things should be considered in an exercise formula. First, consult your doctor if you have any existing health concerns that might be affected by a new exercise regimen. Choose an exercise routine you enjoy and can commit to, and then start easy. Just five minutes three times a week, to start, working up to five times a week with longer sessions, is a beginning commitment almost anyone can make. Walking is excellent exercise, as is aerobic exercise. Movement is the key to receiving the benefits.


We are creatures of habit, and once the habit becomes established (after about one month), it is easier to keep the commitment to exercise. As your routine advances, be sure to allow for some warm-up and cool-down time to avoid stressing your body. Avoid competition, at least initially, as it can foster unrealistic expectations and possibly result in injury. Jon Dunn is a naturopathic physician living in Nosara, on the northern Pacific coast. E-mail questions or comments to, or visit


Miscellaneous Exercise Tips

• Having fun with your lifestyle endeavors is the key to success.


• Slow down if you can’t talk while exercising, or if you experience shortness of breath.


• Consult a physician if you experience pain from your stomach up to your left shoulder, dizziness, disorientation or any other form of persistent physical concern with your exercise regime.


• Overall fitness and toning of body muscle is more important than just losing weight.


• It’s okay to do two shorter intervals rather than one long one.


• To begin, use this formula as a guide: 220 minus your age = __ times 50% (gives the lower pulse rate per minute to strive for during exercise); 220 minus your age = __ times 70% (gives the upper limit of heart beats per minute to strive for during exercise).


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