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10 Health Benefits of Regular Exercise for Men

Why bother working out? Whose got time to walk? Find out what regular exercise can do for you.

Exercise Health Benefit 1: Lower cholesterol

As most men get older, cholesterol numbers begin to move in the wrong direction. Levels of so-called bad cholesterol — low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — gradually increase. Levels of good cholesterol, called high-density lipoprotein (HDL), tend to fall. Unfortunately, that combination of high LDL and low HDL is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. Excess cholesterol accumulates on the inner lining of blood vessels, leading to arthrosclerosis and heart attacks. The best way to keep LDL cholesterol levels down is to eat a diet low in saturated fat (the kind found in meat and high-fat dairy products.) The single best way to boost good HDL cholesterol? Exercise. A 2007 Danish study of 835 men found that regular physical activity was consistently associated with higher levels of HDL cholesterol. A meta-analysis of 52 exercise training trials, including 4700 subjects, found that HDL levels increased an average of 4.6 percent — enough to take a significant notch out of heart disease risk.

Exercise Health Benefit 2: Lower triglycerides

Triglycerides are a form of fat found in the blood. Rising triglyceride levels are associated with increased risk of heart disease. The same Danish study that found higher levels of HDL showed that the most active men also had the lowest triglyceride levels.

Exercise Health Benefit 3: Lower risk of high blood pressure

As blood pressure climbs, the risk of heart disease and stroke accelerates. Unfortunately, blood pressure levels typically climb as men get older. But they don’t have to. In a study published in 2007, University of Minnesota researchers followed men and women 18 to 30 years old for up to 15 years. The more physically active the volunteers were, the lower their risk of developing hypertension.

Exercise Health Benefit 4: Reduced inflammation

Regular exercise has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation. That matters because cholesterol-laden plaques on the lining of arteries are most likely to break off and cause heart attacks when they become inflamed. A 2006 study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota found that men with high levels of aerobic fitness, measured as VO2max, had lower levels of C-reactive protein, along with other markers of inflammation.

Exercise Health Benefit 5: Better blood vessels

To respond to changing demands for oxygen, blood vessels must be flexible enough to widen and narrow. Smoking, cholesterol build-up, and just plain aging tend to stiffen vessels, increasing heart attack risk. A growing number of studies show that exercise training helps maintain the ability of blood vessels to open and constrict in response to changing physical demands.

Exercise Health Benefit 6: Lower risk of diabetes

Adult onset diabetes — fueled mostly by too much body fat — is one of the biggest health worries on the horizon. Staying active can help you keep the weight off. But research shows that even for people who are overweight or obese, exercise reduces the risk of diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program found that an exercise and weight loss program lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by a whopping 58% over a three-year period. And the volunteers in that program weren’t running marathons. In fact, the exercise they were doing was the equivalent of burning only an additional 593 calories of energy — about the equivalent of walking around six miles a week for most men.

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