There is no doubt that exercise can have many health benefits. It appears that we can build muscle strength and stamina at any age by starting slowly and setting realistic goals for ourselves. Being sedentary is a major culprit in developing illnesses, especially as we grow older.

Movement by itself helps to circulate lymph, which is so important for maintaining a strong immune system. Lymph actually contains white blood cells to help remove toxins and waste material from the body. We do not have a built-in pump to circulate lymph the way that our heart does for blood circulation. Movement and deep breathing is how lymph gets circulated in the body.

In terms of disease, a solid exercise routine may reduce the risk of a variety of cancers. Weight gain appears to be associated with postmenopausal breast cancer, pancreatic, and colon cancer, among others. Exercise may, in fact, help with bowel motility, which would be especially helpful in reducing colon cancer risk.

As we gain weight, along with visible fat, fat also develops around the organs of our gut, putting us at an increased risk for insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease. Aside from disease, regular exercise can help to improve our memory and we may work faster on tasks. Typically, reaction times slow down as we grow older. Exercise may even reduce the risk of and progression of Alzheimer’s disease along with other memory loss associated with aging.

A regular exercise program should not be taken to any extreme as over-exercise has its own risks. Recent studies have shown that people with existing heart disease are more likely to have a fatal stroke or heart attack overdoing high intensity exercise. Another study found that young men involved in endurance exercise increased the risk of developing an irregular heart rhythm later in life.

Over-exercise also can compromise the immune system while regular exercise helps to build immunity. It appears that overdoing exercise in the long-term decreases the number of white blood cells in our body. White blood cells increase with moderate exercise and help to fight off infections. Over-exercise also increases the production of stress hormones, which can compromise the immune system as well.

Listen to your body. You will know when you have overdone it with exercise from weight loss, injuries, and feeling very tired to headaches, appetite loss, and trouble falling asleep and sometimes staying asleep.

The American Heart Association recommends the following exercise routine:

At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity is recommended at least 2 days per week.

Remember to start slowly and set realistic exercise goals. Step back if you feel signs of over-working your body. You are doing yourself a favor and do not have to prove yourself to anyone as much as to listen to your body.