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Need reasons to exercise?

KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) -- Is all of this exercise really worth the effort? Can't this be a whole lot easier? When will we be able to keep fit while lounging in the recliner?

There are too many days when we are tempted to skip the workout. How many of you have said, "I'll start tomorrow?" How many days ago was yesterday? Well, tomorrow is now and the recliner will last longer the less you sit in it, anyway.

The benefits of exercise will only accrue to those who make it part of a healthy lifestyle. Making healthier choices for your life are not part of the next month or two just so you can fit into a pair of pants or pass a fitness test. This is part of a life-long commitment.

I have listed nine good reasons to start exercising today, or get back on track if you've stopped. You have probably heard these before, but sometimes a healthy reminder helps to reconfirm the importance of making exercise a priority.

Regular aerobic exercise helps prevent heart disease by slowing the buildup of plaque on the arteries of the heart. Active people will tend to have larger, cleaner arteries. Aerobic exercise also increases the level of "good" HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, which helps carry the cholesterol out of the arteries, while decreasing the "bad" LDL cholesterol. Aerobic exercise helps prevent obstructive blood clots from forming in the arteries.

An additional benefit is that regular exercise helps to normalize blood pressure, especially in those whose blood pressure is somewhat elevated. Aerobic exercise makes the heart a stronger and pump more efficiently. Resting heart rates will usually decrease over time due to regular aerobic exercise because as the heart becomes stronger it can pump more blood per beat. Therefore, it must beat less times per minute to pump the same amount of blood.

Exercise improves the body's ability to regulate blood sugar. Can anyone say "prevention of Type II diabetes"?

Weight-bearing exercise prevents the loss of bone mineral that naturally occurs as we age. Weight-bearing exercises can include walking, jogging, weight lifting, racquet sports, etc., any activity that applies some force to the bone structure.

Physical activity also strengthens the muscles and joints and other structures that help hold the body together in a strong and healthy manner.

Exercise helps control body weight and is essential in any credible weight management program. Exercise burns additional calories, and weight lost through a combination of a healthy, low-fat diet and exercise is more likely to be from fat loss, rather than water or muscle tissue loss.

By preventing the loss of fat-burning, lean muscle tissue, exercise helps prevent the drop in metabolic rate that sometimes accompanies weight loss. A gradual decline in metabolic rate naturally occurs as we age.

In many ways, exercise is the antithesis to aging. Exercise can help maintain stamina, strength, flexibility, bone density, metabolic rate and general enthusiasm that usually decreases as we age. Exercise gives you the ability to maintain an independent lifestyle and increases the likelihood you will be able to enjoy your post-retirement years.

Maintaining flexibility in the muscles of the legs and lower back, and strength in the abdominals and back muscles can help prevent the development of back problems that can be debilitating and very painful.

In short, exercise makes life more fun. As fitness improves, activity becomes easier. Exercise is a stress reliever, helps you feel more relaxed and even sleep better. And let's face it, the better you look and feel about yourself, the more confident you are and the more you'll enjoy life!