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HEALTHY HUSKY: The importance of maintaining physical activity

By Luke Belval
On April 24, 2014

Everyone knows that they are supposed to work out. It would be difficult to find a person who disagrees with the fact that a physically active individual is generally healthier than his or her sedentary counterpart. Staying active is a key part of your health, and when you look at it from the different components of your global health, the need to exercise regularly is undeniable. The American College of Sports Medicine has adopted the phrase "Exercise is Medicine" for good reasons, and many physicians are introducing physical activity as a prescription for some of the chronic diseases that affect our country.
Saying, "I am thin and can eat whatever I want without exercise," ignores the evidence that a healthy lifespan relies on forming good habits early. While your physical activity when you are older is crucial to the prevention of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, the habits that are most successful begin in your 20's. Even though you may be in perfect health now, sedentary habits and even an aversion to exercise means that a slowly declining metabolism may catch up to you eventually.
Being physically active has a wide variety of health benefits, both physiological and psychological. Regular exercise that stresses all components of fitness - cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, flexibility - keeps your body running at peak performance. Cardiorespiratory endurance, or cardio for short, keeps your heart working strong and can help maintain normal blood pressures.
Meanwhile, muscular strength allows you to complete your activities of daily living without pain. While you may not experience pain when reaching for an item in your kitchen now, go to a physical therapists office and you will see older individuals who cannot complete this simple task. The final component, flexibility, extends beyond the gymnasts of the world. Sitting for long periods of time can affect the flexibility of your hamstrings and hip flexors and is a very common cause of low back pain.
The psychological benefits of physical activity throughout your lifespan almost match the physical benefits. Regular exercise has been related to healthy brain function at several different levels, ranging from memory to mood. You don't have to run a marathon to get these benefits either, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends only 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. This boils down to only 30 minutes per day for five days and can be achieved through a variety of activities.
The hardest part of establishing healthy physical activity habits is within the initial period of establishing the new habit. Take advantage of one of the periods in your life that it is easiest to exercise. You have access to countless ways to get fit on campus and can turn a daily chore into a social activity.

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