I regularly meet with patients that are struggling to do what it takes to get their weight under control to help turn back the clock on their fatty liver disease. Based on recommendations from an earlier appointment, they’re working to change their diet to healthier eating. But admittedly, it’s a struggle and, after failing to see the dial on the scales drop a pound or two, they’re ready to give up.
Part of the problem is that they have yet to make time in their schedule for exercise, and it’s pretty difficult to lose weight and have any real level of fitness with diet alone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get, in at least 10-minute increments, a weekly minimum of: 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
But according to a heart study, even sporadic bouts of activity could lower the risk of death by 41 percent, and each additional 30 minutes of activity a day—light activity such as walking the dog or easy gardening—can lower the risk of death by another 17 percent.
Here are five reasons exercise can change your life:
- Aerobic and weight training combined helps improve weight loss by raising your metabolic rate, or the energy in calories needed to keep your body functioning while at rest.
- Exercise can also help blood sugar, which helps your muscles use more of the glucose in your bloodstream as energy. Over time, that can lower blood sugar levels and make the insulin in your body work more efficiently.
- Losing weight lowers lipids, the building blocks to cholesterol, and levels of triglycerides, the fat in the bloodstream. When elevated, these can raise the risk of heart disease.
- Exercise promotes smart, graceful aging by improving balance and posture, reducing the chance of dementia, and strengthening bones.
- It also improves mental health. Studies have found that it can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and even the risk Alzheimer’s.
In short, exercise helps control all the characters of metabolic syndrome—truncal obesity, diabetes (or insulin resistance), cardiovascular disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver—and more.
I would love nothing more than to be able to tell people that losing weight is as easy as eating cauliflower and zucchini for a year. But the truth is that overall wellness also requires moving the body—that’s what the body was made to do.
One way to get started with exercise is simply by walking. Walking is a safe, low-impact exercise that most people can manage. Even a 10-minute walk to start out slow, as research proves, has enormous benefits. Over time, as you build strength, add time to your walk and even add weights.
Another benefit of exercise: It’s a great way to get together with family and friends. Most of my patients have someone else in their life: a significant other, a spouse, children, siblings, in-laws, a best friend. By making anyone on that list a part of the lifestyle change to overall wellness—including eating better and exercise—everyone benefits.