NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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May 1, 2013

Benefits of exercise go beyond weight loss

Exercise is good for you, but have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? The answers are varied and may not be as obvious as you might think.

Most people exercise – and spend billions of dollars doing so – to lose or control weight. While regular exercise will help with weight control, it's really only a small part of that equation. It takes a lot of exercise to burn calories. Good nutrition and controlling calorie intake plays a bigger role in weight control.

The best reason to get exercise is to improve overall health, and here there are many benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise can ward off heart disease, prevent high blood pressure and boost the level of “good” cholesterol relative to “bad” cholesterol.

Doctors say a lifestyle that includes regular exercise can also reduce the chances of stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and even arthritis. There's also evidence it can reduce some cancer risks.

Reduced cancer risk

Researchers in the Netherlands last week reported results of tests using laboratory mice that showed regular exercise to be effective at reducing liver cancer.

"We know that modern, unhealthy lifestyles predispose people to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which may lead to liver cancer; however it's been previously unknown whether regular exercise reduces the risk of developing HCC (liver cancer),” said Prof. Jean-Francois Dufour of EASL, a European scientific society. “This research is significant because it opens the door for further studies to prove that regular exercise can reduce the chance of people developing HCC."

For some time, doctors have prescribed regular exercise for people at risk for developing cancer. But controlling weight and preventing serious disease aren't the only benefits of exercise.

Regular exercise can improve your mood and relieve stress. Physical activity stimulates chemicals in your brain that make you relaxed and happier. And because it also helps you control your weight, you may have more self-confidence.

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