My name is Dr Andy Reed, and I am a sport and exercise medicine specialist working in Banff & Canmore. This is the first of hopefully many columns I will be writing for the Crag & Canyon on the topic of sport & exercise medicine! Hopefully you will find these articles informative, interesting and motivating. After all, exercise is medicine!
The health benefits of regular physical activity are really almost too numerous to discuss in a lot of detail, but we have proven beyond doubt that regular exercise can not only help you to look and feel younger, but can extend your life span and your healthy or disease-free life span.
All-cause mortality (ie dying from anything - accidents or illness) is reduced for adults of all ages. We know that heart disease and stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure, are all less common in regular exercisers, and if you are already affected by one of these conditions, you can improve the outlook, and in some cases completely ‘cure’ or reverse your condition.
Many cancers have been shown to occur less frequently in those who exercise regularly, including breast, colon, kidney, bladder, stomach and lung cancer. Of course, other lifestyle factors may contribute, such as smoking, but exercise is a big part of living a long, healthful and vigorous life, and if regular physical activity becomes part of your routine, then you’re less likely to want to smoke, more likely to consume alcohol in moderation, and less likely to consume fast food, all of which contribute to a disease free existence.
In older adults, especially frail older adults, we see a reduced risk of Alzheimers dementia, and better brain function overall (cognition), as well as less risk of falling and suffering a hip or other fracture. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, regular physical activity can dramatically improve your symptoms, improve your sleep quality, and decrease the need for medications to treat these conditions.
Regular exercise makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight, and even if you don’t lose weight when you begin to hit the gym or the trails, you are improving many of your health outcomes, regardless of what happens on the bathroom scales.
Many of us in the sport and exercise medicine world now regard questions about your exercise routines as important as checking your oxygen saturations, your blood pressure or heart rate. It’s the new vital sign, and physicians and other health care providers are hopefully asking you about the amount of time you spend on physical activity. If you are living in the Bow Valley, then you really are living in paradise, and the possibilities to get outside and be active are endless! I really hope you’re making the most of it.
In my next column, we’ll discuss how much and what type of exercise is best.