The benefits of exercise are far-reaching. Clinical and epidemiological studies have demonstrated that regular aerobic exercise reduces the risk of death due to heart disease and stroke, aids in reducing weight, helps prevent diabetes mellitus, strengthens bones, and enhances immune function. The psychological benefits are also broad, and most studies suggest a positive relationship between physical fitness and mental achievement.
The relationship between regular aerobic exercise and cardiovascular health and longevity is well established. Regular exercise leads to a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease, in which fatty deposits (plaque) form in blood vessels supplying the
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One area of controversy has been how much exercise is enough to improve general health, reduce the risk of heart disease, and increase longevity. Meaningful studies on this topic are very difficult to perform because they require large populations of subjects and many years of data collection, and because poor health sometimes results in limitations to physical activity. Despite these difficulties, it is clear that regular exercise, along with a generally healthy lifestyle, is beneficial. People who have sedentary lifestyles make up half the population of industrialized societies, and this group has the most to gain by exercising. One recent U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel suggested that as little as 30 minutes every day of purposeful, moderately strenuous physical activity-for example, rapid walking or lawn mowing-is sufficient to lower the risk of heart disease. There is no conclusive evidence to prove that an especially rigorous exercise routine, such as running many miles per day, as opposed to walking or jogging daily, will add years to a person's life.
Getting in Shape
Physical fitness is often defined in terms of four measurements: cardiovascular-respiratory function, body composition (the proportion of lean body mass in comparison to fat), flexibility, and muscular endurance