Physical activity important for healthy living

We all know exercise is good for us.

Unfortunately, with our strenuous lifestyles and schedules, it can be hard to maintain a regular workout plan. But it is no mystery that good health does not happen by diet alone.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided physical activity is such an important part of good nutrition that they added it to the Food Guide Pyramid in 2005.

MyPyramid.gov recommends 30 minutes of physical activity, or any movement of the body that uses energy, per day.

So what is the big deal? Why is exercise so important? MyPyramid.gov explains that beyond increasing fitness levels, exercise helps manage weight and builds and maintains bones, muscles and joints. It can also reduce stress, anxiety, depression and the risk of diseases such as heart disease, colon cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

One thing many people do not know is that exercise actually raises “good” cholesterol, HDL, and lowers “bad” cholesterol, LDL, as reported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Students’ minds are already crammed with due dates, meeting times, lecture notes and social activities, but stopping to think about health will be beneficial in the future.

Amy Goodson, executive health dietitian and a sports nutritionist for TCU athletes, said students “have the same arteries they will have in 30 years.”

She explained that if someone is eating a common student diet consisting of fast food, fried foods, etc., he or she is taking in quite a large amount of saturated fat. It’s saturated fat that causes cholesterol to increase and arteries to clog.

High cholesterol is now even seen in children, Goodson said.

A 2007 report from the American Heart Association confirmed that total heart disease is the No. 1 killer of people ages 65 and older and No. 2 for those ages 0 to 14 and 25 to 64.

But, as Goodson suggests, a low saturated fat diet combined with a high fiber diet and exercise can have great effects on lowering LDL and improving total cholesterol.

Something as simple as walking 30 minutes a day, as recommended by MyPyramid.gov, can have numerous beneficial effects on your body, mind and wellbeing. So here’s your challenge: Get active!

And it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and have your cholesterol checked.