work out

Exercise Is Medicine

Physical inactivity contributes to a variety of chronic diseases and health complications, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Performing moderate-intensity physical activity on a regular basis can help individuals live longer and help reduce health problems at any age. For example, individuals who exercise have an easier time keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Exercise also strengthens the muscles and bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and everyday injury, and may even lower the risk of many diseases, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and some cancers. Regular physical activity also improves sleep, increases energy, lowers stress levels, and helps maintain independence.

The following tips are for starting an exercise program. If you have any medical issues or health concerns, talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

  • Start slowly and build up gradually. Warm up and cool down with easy walking or gentle stretching. Then speed up to a pace you can continue for 5 to 10 minutes without getting overly tired. Gradually increase the amount of time you exercise, and work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  • You can break up your exercise sessions. Exercising in short sessions a few times a day may fit into your schedule better than a single 30-minute session.
  • Try different activities. Take a weekend hike with your family or try a new exercise class. Find activities you enjoy to add to your fitness routine.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea, take a break. You may be pushing yourself too hard.
  • Be flexible. Give yourself permission to take off a day or two if you are not feeling well.

Don Tomaszewski is director of medical fitness at Valley Health LifeStyles fitness center, located at 1400 MacArthur Blvd. in Mahwah. For more information, please call 201-389-0839, or visit

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