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Why I am thankful for exercise

CHARLESTON, S.C. (BP)–There are many reasons I am thankful for exercise. Here are five:

— It’s made my heart strong.

At the age of 56 my father suffered his first heart attack. That’s the age I’ll be in five years, but according to my doctor and my most recent medical exam I have practically “wiped out my chances” of coronary heart disease because of my active lifestyle. Even a small amount of exercise is better than none. Exercise lowers your bad cholesterol, the kind that clogs arteries. It also reduces your blood pressure, and relieves stress on your heart.

— It’s helped me stand up straight.

Being a small-boned person, I am at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis as I age. Exercise, together with a healthy calcium intake, builds strong bones. Studies show that weight-bearing exercises, such as running, walking and weight-lifting, help reduce your risk of getting osteoporosis as you grow older.

— It’s kept me from losing my mind.

For years I exercised for vanity but now I exercise for sanity. Exercise is God’s natural tranquilizer for the body. There have been many times in my life that I have been burdened with problems and cares of this world and have headed out the door to get outside, enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. I returned with a much better outlook on life and the particular problems that plaguing me. It’s general knowledge: exercise counters stress and depression. Mood improvements may occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates, e.g. endorphins. Psychological changes may occur because of changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety levels.

— It’s helped me have four healthy pregnancies.

Although exercise might be risky in some cases, the benefits of exercising during pregnancy generally far outweigh the risks. During all four of my pregnancies I was able to exercise almost up to the last trimester. During my last pregnancy I walked every morning with two of my dear friends. We would walk the same route every day, making friends along the way. We would walk past an elderly gentlemen and look forward to his sweet greeting. One morning he just couldn’t resist saying, “You girls are sure working hard and it seem to be working for two of you but that one in the middle just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

— It’s given me fitness friends.

Over the years exercise has introduced me to some of the most outstanding athletes in the world. I have made friends all over the country because of speaking opportunities for exercise. I have walking buddies in Ohio, kayaking friends in Mississippi, running buddies in Houston, aerobic friends in Nairobi, Kenya, dancing friends in D.C. and weight-lifting friends in South Carolina.
Vicki Heath is a coordinator for First Place, a church-based weight loss and healthy living program.

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  • Vicki Heath