Hippocrates said, “Exercise is man’s best medicine.” That might have been headline news back then, but now it is old news. Today, the public is constantly inundated with the benefits exercise brings to our health, both mentally and physically. Well, just like everything else in life, if there are benefits, then there are consequences too. Oh, I’m not talking about the consequences of exercising, such as a strained muscle. I’m talking about the serious consequences of not exercising.
The obvious consequence is weight gain. There are some people whose metabolism allows them to eat anything and not exercise, but as they get older, even some of them find that changes. Obesity aggravates other physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers and depression. As little as a 10 pound weight loss can drastically decrease some of the side effects of these diseases.
Without exercise and stretching, mobility, balance and flexibility will decrease as a person ages. However, by exercising a person can remain flexible and maintain muscle mass well into old age. Many falls actually occur because the person has lost his or her balance, which would have been maintained better with exercise. Even some thirty and forty year olds find it difficult to balance on one foot for ten seconds. Common injuries that require physical therapy will take considerably longer to heal too, because flexibility needs to be established before some exercises can be done.
We think of exercise affecting muscles and weight, but it even affects organs and the makeup of blood. The cardio-respiratory (heart and lungs) system needs exercise regularly to maintain the ability to function properly. One consequence of no exercise is lungs that are more susceptible to disease such as pneumonia. Lack of exercise also contributes to lower HDL (good) cholesterol and higher LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and increased glucose-stimulated insulin secretion.
Low self-image or self-esteem may not be deadly, but it affects a person’s quality of life. By not caring enough to exercise regularly, a person may not experience certain endorphins that can help ward off depression and other mental health conditions, which can have an affect on how a person sees and carries oneself.
Obesity, preventable disease, heart and lung health and self-esteem are extremely good reasons to get up and move. The next time the positive benefits of exercise are mentioned, remember that there are serious negative consequences of not exercising too. Remember, it’s never too late to get up and move.