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Four Ways Exercise is Medicine

What kind of medicine is free and doesn’t require a visit to the doctor? Exercise!

August 29, 2016 | HF Healthy Living Team

You may have heard that exercise is good for your health, but do you know how good for you it is? Here are four ways that exercise can work as well as medicine.

Lower Blood Pressure

Being active makes your heart better able to move blood and oxygen through your body. Regular exercise leaves your heart stronger and able to pump blood with less effort, which lowers pressure on your arteries. Exercise can also cause new blood vessels to grow, which can lower your blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is in a healthy range, regular exercise can keep it in that range as you get older. If you have high blood pressure, physical activity can lower your systolic blood pressure—the pressure your blood puts on your arteries when your heart beats. For some people, regular exercise can reduce the need for blood pressure medicine. Test your knowledge about blood pressure here!

Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Exercise can take between one and three months to lower your blood pressure and will only do so as long as you keep it up—so keep it up!

Lower Cholesterol

Medication can help regulate your cholesterol levels. So can exercise!

Regular exercise lowers triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood that can be dangerous at high levels. Exercise also increases HDL or “good” cholesterol, which removes LDL—“bad” cholesterol—from your blood. How much do you know about cholesterol? Take this quiz to find out!

Thirty minutes of physical activity once a day may be all you need to help keep your cholesterol levels in check and to reduce or eliminate your need for cholesterol medicine. Keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level can be as easy as taking three short walks a day.

Diabetes Prevention

Exercise, especially strength training, helps you build muscle. Muscles are better at using glucose (blood sugar) for energy than other tissues in your body, so having more muscle can help keep your blood sugar within a healthy range, which can help prevent or manage diabetes.

If you have diabetes, physical activity can also help your body use insulin in healthier ways. Take this quiz to learn more about glucose, insulin, and diabetes.

Healthy Weight and BMI

Exercise can help you stay at a healthy weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). If you need to lose or maintain weight, exercise can help your body use energy better. Exercise can also help you use up energy that you eat in the form of calories. Find out more about maintaining a healthy weight and BMI here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that, per week, adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise such as walking, swimming, biking, or jogging. Dancing and jumping rope can be great exercise, too!

Building up your muscle tone is important as well. The CDC recommends that adults do at least two strength training activities a week. Want to work on your strength? Try these strengthening moves for your core and your lower body!

Exercise has also been linked to improving lung function in people with COPD, increasing muscle strength in those who have arthritis, lowering risks of osteoporosis or colorectal cancer, and reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. That’s some powerful medicine!

Wondering how exercise can do so many things? Find out here what happens in your body when you exercise.


© 2016 HF Management Services, LLC.

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“Cholesterol Guide: Exercise Tips,” Cleveland Clinic. Accessed July 12, 2016.

“Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure,” Mayo Clinic. August 6, 2015.

Exercise is Medicine, ©2016 American College of Sports Medicine.

“Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 15, 2015.

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