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The benefits and healing power of exercise

The path to wellness and well-being goes through exercise.

That’s the undeniable conclusion from scientists and doctors the world over who have studied the benefits of exercise.

Over the years and many studies later, we know that regular exercise fights disease, improves the quality of life, and helps stave off the ravages of aging.

Keep in mind that these research results haven’t been gleaned from minor studies using small samples monitored for limited time periods. Instead, these are wide-ranging, long-term projects — some lasting more than 70 years — that examine huge populations in various demographics and age groups. Projects such as the Harvard Alumni and Framingham Heart Studies, as well as international findings, are published in the world’s leading medical journals.

Let’s review some of the highlights of the healing power of exercise.

You can’t live forever, but you can live well, reduce arthritic pain, maintain mobility, help to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s, and minimize the limitations of aging far into your senior years. Exercise can do all that. This is especially important as the population of seniors grows.

Here’s what the newest research tells us. Regular exercise decreases the likelihood of developing arthritis-related disabilities. For those with arthritis, not exercising can make consequences of the disease worse — and I can vouch for this personally. A major survey of 3,554 men and women aged 53-63 discovered that regular exercise decreases the likelihood of developing arthritis-related disabilities by 10 percent among arthritis sufferers. Further, inactive arthritis sufferers showed a 37-percent increase in disabilities as compared with 29 percent and 27 percent for those who exercised. Respondents who engaged in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity five days per week reported increased relief from the functional decline related to arthritis.

An accumulating body of research shows that those who exercise regularly have lower death rates than sedentary individuals. This increased life expectancy comes from the fact that exercise limits the damage inflicted by chronic conditions, as well as helps to prevent the onset of disease.

Regular physical activity reduces mortality rates by 25-33 percent and increases life expectancy by one to two years by age 80.

This long-ranging study followed 6,936 Harvard alumni aged 35-74 years, over a period of 16 years. By performing simple physical activities, such as walking, stair climbing and participating in sports, both men and women had death rates that were one-quarter to one-third lower than those who didn’t exercise for long periods.

I know most of us desire to be healthy and fit — and this desire acknowledges no economic or demographic limits. This fact is attested to in the healthy pursuits such as walking, hiking, running, bicycling, etc. What’s more, these activities lend themselves to participation as a family, a couple or as a social opportunity with friends.

If a pill could be invented that has as many benefits as exercise, it would be the most prescribed pill in the world.

Wildfire protection

Pam Wilson, with the Firewise Council of Southwest Colorado, will be at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse Thursday, May 5, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. to discuss why our wildfire danger is increasing and offer suggestions on what you can do to protect yourself and your property from a fast-moving wildfire.

Recommendations on landscaping and plant materials will be discussed. Mitigation specialists and firefighters will be on hand to answer questions.

The title of the presentation is “Firescaping Your Forested Homesite.”

Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, call 759-3638.

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