Healthy Living

Hidden Benefits of Exercise
Some people get discouraged when an exercise program fails to produce a hoped for benefit such as reduction in weight, blood pressure or cholesterol levels. But the evidence shows that exercise can be a lifesaver, even if its effects are not obvious.
In one recent study, investigators at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas gave 32,000 people physical examinations and treadmill tests. The researchers reviewed the 690 deaths that occurred over an average of eight years.
Among healthy people, not surprisingly, they found that those with the greatest cardiovascular fitness lived longer than the least fit. But fitness was protective even in people with serious health problems. In fact, it had such a powerful influence that fit people with multiple health problems outlived unfit people without those problems.

Most people see measurable health improvements when they exercise. But for those who don’t, this study should provide some motivation to keep at it. No matter what their risk profile-smoker or nonsmoker, overweight or normal weight, with or without a family history of coronary disease, high cholesterol or not ­ the study participants who were fit had a decided advantage. Journal of the American Medical Association, 7/17/96

Exercise and Back Problems
Exercise is the cornerstone of pain prevention. Regular exercise is your most potent weapon against back problems. Activity increases aerobic capacity, improve overall fitness and helps shed excess pounds that stress backs.

Stretching and toning your back and other supporting muscles helps reduce wear and tear on your back. Stretching reduces your risk of injury by warming up muscles. It also increases long-term flexibility.

Strength training makes your arms, legs and lower body stronger. Strong arms, legs and especially abdominal muscles helps relieve back strain. Ask one of our doctors for advice before beginning an exercise program, then follow these general suggestions:

  • Start slowly – pace yourself and don’t overdo it
  • Make smart moves – swimming and other water exercises are safest for your back because they are non-weight bearing. Workouts on a stationary bike, treadmill or cross-country ski machine are less jarring than running on hard surfaces. Bicycling is a good option, too
  • Avoid high risk moves – avoid movements that cause you to exaggerate the stretch of your muscles, for example, don’t try to touch your toes with your legs straight or do activities involving twisting, quick stops and starts, and impact on hard surfaces.

Take stock of your back and how you use it. Then “invest” in prevention-regular exercise, healthy weight, good posture and, perhaps most important, back saving lifting techniques. And, if you have bouts of back pain, remember to call our office immediately for care.