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EXERCISE CAN HELP CONTROL WEIGHT AND BOOST IMMUNITY

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Update: Last week I began a summary of questions to and answers from seven fitness experts from an article in the December issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter with the idea of convincing all of you non-exercisers to make the plunge into exercise in 1994. Today, I will conclude with these comments:

Question: Can exercise help older women?

Answer: The real value of exercise for the older woman is that it keeps her on her feet and ambulatory. It helps improve her balance, muscle strength, coor-din-a-tion and flexibility so that she can protect herself against the falls that make osteoporosis a crippling or even deadly disease.

Question: Can exercise prevent diabetes?

Answer: Studies suggest - but haven't proved - that more-active people are less likely to develop non-insulin-dependent diabetes, the kind that was called adult-onset diabetes.

Question: How does exercise help in diabetes?

Answer: People with diabetes have trouble handling the sugar circulating in their blood because their cells are insensitive to insulin, which normally disposes of the sugar. As a result, their blood sugar levels are high, and that can lead to complications like blindness, kidney disease and gangrene. Physical activity increases the cells' sensitivity to insulin, so it lowers both blood sugar and insulin levels. It also helps reduce abdominal fat, which can itself increase insulin levels.

Question: Do people need to exercise to lose weight?

Answer: Exercise can give you an extra "bang for your buck" if you combine it with eating fewer calories. But where physical activity is critical is in keeping those pounds off. If you don't exercise, it will be very, very difficult to maintain weight loss.

Question: Why is exercise so important for weight control?

Answer: Physical activity provides a double payoff. Activity burns calories, of course; but it can also increase muscle tissue. The more muscle we have, the more calories we expend doing anything.

Question: What are the best exercise guidelines for weight control?

Answer: It needs to be brisk and regular - a 30- to 45-minute bout at least three or four times a week. You should perspire a bit and feel your heart rate go up with the exercise, and you should breathe harder, but not so hard that you can't talk. Move with purpose, using your arms as well as your legs.

Question: Does exercise boost immunity?

Answer: Yes. Physically fit people get fewer colds and upper respiratory tract infections than people who are not fit, probably because of an increase of T-cells and immunoglobulins that protect against foreign invaders.

Question: Can exercise lower blood pressure?

Answer: Of some 45 studies related to this topic, three-quarters show a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

- THIS IS A NEW YEAR. If you are not exercising now, get started. If you do exercise, keep up the good work. Happy New Year.