Why do you do aerobic exercise? To lose weight? To get in shape? To prepare for a race? Now there's another reason - researchers have found that regular aerobic exercise can help you to fight off colds and flu, slow the process of aging, even reduce your risk of certain cancers and chronic diseases.
It does this in a couple of ways. Firstly, regular aerobic exercise boosts your immune system - when you increase the circulation of natural killer cells that fight off viruses and bacteria, you become more resistant to infections such as colds and flu.
In addition, regular aerobic exercise helps to combat the ongoing damage that can occur to your cells, tissues and organs - it is this, rather than age itself, that that underlies many chronic conditions that we typically associate with aging. Researchers have also found that exercise can lower blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol, and cut the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
In fact, rather than looking at exercise as something "extra", or "different", experts are beginning to look at inactivity as an abnormal state, one that poses as great a risk to your health as smoking. Lack of activity can contribute to a range of illnesses including:
- Heart disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
The role of exercise in boosting your immune system is thus vital. When you exercise you improve the circulation of immune cells in your blood - these cells work to fight infections and pathogens throughout your body, and the better they circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at fighting the viruses and diseases that attack your body.
We typically think of the immune system as something that defends us against minor illnesses like a cold or the flu, but its role extends much further. Your immune system is also responsible for protecting you against dangerous, life-threatening diseases like cancer.
Regular exercise is important whatever your age - however, if you are over forty, it's even more crucial. Once people turn forty, they typically begin a gradual decline towards old age, with their physical strength, stamina, balance and flexibility declining year by year. However much you may think you won't wind up like the decrepit or obese old people you see around you, if you are not exercising regularly, it is inevitable.
It is vital that you design an exercise program that takes account of your particular needs. It should include not only regular aerobic exercise, but also anaerobic (interval) training, strength training, and core exercises.
Your goal should be to build, and improve the strength, endurance and flexibility of all the muscles of your body. Designing a program means accounting for your individual circumstances. That means taking account of:
- Your current physical condition
- Your fitness goals
- Your health concerns
- The activities you like
- The best time of day for you to workout
Developing a program that fits your life and circumstances will help you to make exercise an essential and regular part of your life.