But some not-so-obvious benefits can be gained from a routine exercise program.
Dr. Wouter Rietesma, a Plattsburgh infectious-disease specialist, has done research on the topic and presented his findings during a recent luncheon with the Plattsburgh Noon Rotary Club and again with a group of volunteers for CVPH Medical Center.
“Let me stress that I’m not an expert in this field,” said Rietsema, who is also the medical director for CVPH. “I had a patient who was trying to do things to improve brain function, so I started to do a little research.”
One of the early concepts he found was that exercise does seem to help treat or prevent early memory loss.
“There were a variety of studies of older people who were having early memory loss. Mild aerobic exercise or light weight training did lead to improvement in mental functioning.”
Positive results from those studies influenced Rietsema to dedicate himself to his regular exercise program.
“It’s a personal motivation for when I’m tired and don’t feel like going (to the gym): I picture myself at 80 and totally dependent on someone else, and that makes the gym more inviting.”
Reduce cancer risk
Several studies also suggest that regular exercise can help prevent or reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
“Perhaps it’s connected to an improved immune system,” Rietsema said. “But there are studies that show there is an association between exercise and a reduced development of prostate cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer.”
Scientific studies sometimes have to be taken “with a grain of salt,” he noted.
If a study looks at 100 people, and 50 of them exercise, a reduced percentage of people who develop colon cancer in the exercise group may be related to other lifestyle factors, including improved diets.
Nevertheless, the studies do express healthy benefits from regular exercise, he stressed.
Another possible advantage is an improved attitude for people suffering from moderate depression.
“I know that whenever I exercise, I feel better. I can be having one hell of a rotten day, and at the end of the day I went to the gym and felt at least I did something good.
“One study showed that patients had as much success (in reducing depression) from exercise as from anti-depressants.”
Routine exercise improves the flow of blood in the body, Rietsema said, and that can lead to many health benefits from exercising, including a stronger immune system and better self-esteem.
Studies have shown that exercise can also improve a person’s sexual activity in later years, he added.
Studies have also suggested that the best benefits come from moderate exercise and that low-level exercise, such as casual walking, may not be as beneficial.
“It seems that you do need to get the heart rate up to achieve these benefits,” Rietsema said.
For years, he has stressed the importance of regular exercise to his patients with HIV infections, but his recent research has verified that his recommendations go well beyond basic heart health.
E-mail Jeff Meyers at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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