The Healthy Benefits of Exercise

The evidence keeps piling up—exercise really is the best medicine! Whether you’re already on a regular workout schedule or need a little motivation to get off the couch, keep these benefits in mind.

Adding years to your life. A study published last year in the Harvard Health Letter found that even 75 minutes of brisk walking each week was associated with a lifespan gain of almost two years. More recent research adds that being active and maintaining a healthy weight can boost longevity by as much as seven years.

Maintaining bone strength. It’s a challenge that everyone faces as they age. “Calcium-rich food is always the best place to start,” says Karen Carleton, naturopathic doctor at our Portland store, but don’t forget about weight-bearing exercise. “Without it you’re not going to build bone.” Even walking helps give that message to your bones that they need to continue being strong, she says.

Relieving stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise helps boost endorphins, neurotransmitters that give you an overall feeling of wellbeing, help you focus, increase self-confidence and relieve mild depression and anxiety.  “Even walking for 15 minutes a day, with good deep breathing, can be helpful,” says Brian Vaitkus, naturopathic doctor at our Portland store.

Increasing sleep quality. Because exercise is an effective stress reliever, says Dr. Brad Jacobs, MD, Chair of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, “Decreasing that stress makes it easier for your mind to unwind when it comes time to go to sleep.” A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that even moderate exercise seems to increase people’s quality of sleep, and those who engaged in vigorous exercise were almost twice as likely to report that they slept well almost every night of the week.

Preventing diabetes. Data from the Diabetes Prevention Program showed that people with a high risk for diabetes can delay or even prevent the disease by losing weight through healthier eating and 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days a week. “Exercise causes the body to burn sugar for energy and increases insulin sensitivity, allowing the body to use insulin more efficiently,” says Kate Brainard, ND. The result is lower blood sugar and decreased burden on insulin production by the pancreas—and less chance for developing diabetes.

Our practitioners also recommend light exercise for people suffering from conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.