We live in an era of instant gratification. You want a burger and fries (why are they always unhealthy choices)? It can be delivered to your door in 30 minutes. Shopping for clothes, meeting new people, dating -- you name it -- the digital universe plops it down in front of you before you even have time to reflect on whether you want or need what you have purchased or arranged.
Unfortunately, that desire for super-fast results can translate into how you think about your health. You want a weight-loss diet that strips off pounds pronto, forgetting that's the route to regaining more weight than you lost. (Losing a pound a week max is the best way to keep it off.) You want to beef up your abs and pecs, and take dangerous bulking-up supplements that claim to help. (At least 3 million Americans take performance enhancers.) Slow and steady strength training that allows for recovery and avoids injury provides the healthiest route to good muscle tone and strength.
But there is one example of instant gratification that we heartedly recommend you go for: the benefits you get from exercise. According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guideline Advisory Committee Report, after one exercise session, you will experience lower blood pressure, better sleep, less anxiety, better insulin sensitivity, a better mood, and better concentration, memory and decision making. Wow. It's like winning the lottery -- you get a rich reward for very little effort.
Now, imagine how you'd feel if you made it so you could gain those rewards day after day. You'd improve muscle strength and be rewarded with all the metabolic and chemical changes that help prevent disease, repair injury and increase longevity. At the same time, getting regular exercise would protect your blood vessels. And that in turn would help prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and maybe dementia. As for recovering from a stroke, exercise turns out to be more powerful a rehabilitation tool than medication!
Consistent exercise also helps prevent diabetes and improves blood sugar control for those with Type 2 diabetes. And it's a good backstop if you get an infection. In one study of almost 50,000 people, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, those who contracted COVID-19 and were consistent exercisers were significantly less likely to end up in the hospital than those who weren't active.
Then there's cancer: Studies show regular physical activity can lower the risk of colon cancer by up to 50% and breast cancer by up to 40%.
Exercise from the inside out. How does all this magic unfold inside your body? Within minutes, important changes start happening that affect your genes, immune system, blood sugar, inflammatory responses, and how your body uses stored fat for fuel. One result, according to the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, is that lifelong exercise helps protect strength as you age by tamping down inflammation in your muscles. In addition, your muscles release molecules into your bloodstream that communicate with your liver, brain and bones, according to research done at the lab.
So, get the conversation started. Your goal is 30 to 60 minutes of activity most days -- but not fewer than five -- weekly. If you can add up to 10,000 steps a day to that level of activity ... amazing. And you want two or three 30-minute sessions of strength training a week.
Does that seem impossible -- time-consuming, exhausting? Then start low and slow. Go for 20 minutes in the morning when you get up. Try walking outside, doing the stairs in your house or apartment building, or stretching using stretchy bands or your own body weight. Then make sure to take a walk during your lunch break and after dinner. Sneak it in. It will catch your attention, because you will start to feel relaxed, happier and more self-confident. Remember you are making today -- and all your tomorrows -- better from your first, sweaty step.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit sharecare.com.
(c)2021 Michael Roizen, M.D.
and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
King Features Syndicate