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The Fab 5 Ways Exercise Can Change Your Life

October 07, 2020

Would you trade 150 minutes of exercise a week for a 33 percent lower risk of dying than people who remain physically inactive?

And besides living longer, you would look even more attractive, more vibrant and more healthy than you do now?

Even moderate-intensity physical activity can provide these benefits:


Physical activity, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a great way to avoid these cancers:

  • Bladder.
  • Breast.
  • Colon (proximal and distal).
  • Endometrium.
  • Esophagus (adenocarcinoma).
  • Kidney.
  • Lung.
  • Stomach (cardia and non-cardia adenocarcinoma).

And if you already have cancer?

“People treated for cancer in the past were often told by their healthcare team to rest and decrease their physical activity,” says Gretchin Bade, a physical therapist and program director of oncology with the Hartford Hospital Rehabilitation Network. “Newer research shows that exercise is not only safe during cancer treatment, but that it can improve daily function and quality of life.”

Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Exercise lowers your risk of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

And if you already have diabetes?

Exercise does two important things for diabetes patients, says Dr. Beth Taylor, director of Exercise Physiology Research at Hartford Hospital.

“The first,” she says, “is that it mobilizes a pool of glucose receptors that are insulin-independent. These receptors then facilitate glucose uptake into cells, which lower blood glucose. No insulin needed!

“The second thing that exercise does, especially resistance exercise, is build muscle mass. More metabolically active muscle tissue uses more blood glucose and facilitates better blood sugar control. So patients with diabetes who increase lean muscle mass ultimately see benefits for 24 hour blood sugar control.”

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of excess fat at the waist, high blood pressure, low amounts of High Density Lipoproteins (HDL, or “good” cholesterol), high triglycerides or high blood sugar.

Cardiovascular Disease

Regular moderate-intensity aerobic activity can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, both among the leading causes of death in the United States.

“Let’s face it,” says Dr. Paul Thompson, chief emeritus of cardiology at Hartford Hospital, “exercise is the best bargain in public health. Is there such a thing as too much? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t advise people to stop.”

Mental Health

Exercise ranks among the best mood-boosters. It can help relieve depression, improve your mood and reduce anxiety.

“The isolation and the anxiety that is a result of COVID are causing a worsening of underlying depression and anxiety that may already be present in many teens and young adults,” said Dr. Laura Saunders, a clinical psychologist at the Institute of Living, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network.

During COVID-19, exercise should be considered mandatory after a CDC study in August of young adults age 18 and older found 60 percent reporting some level of anxiety or depression.

Weight Loss and Weight Management

There’s one simple rule when it comes to weight loss, says Dr. Darren Tishler, director of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Hartford HealthCare.

“To lose weight,” he says, “you need to burn more calories than you take in. The only real way to burn these calories is through exercise.”

Multiple studies have supported what most of us have already known: Physical activity can help you maintain a desired weight for years. (The sweet spot is 150 minutes a week. See below.) Remember that nutrition is important, too.

How Much Exercise?

Start slowly, but make your goal 150 minutes of exercise each week. You’ll still feel better with less, but the real benefits start at 150.

For older adults, The American College of Sports Medicine, offers these options:

  • 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise five or more days a week.
  • 20-30 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise three or more days a week.
  • An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity exercise to total 150 minutes a week.”

“Even 15 minutes of exercise per week reduces our risk of early death by 15 percent,” says Amanda Zaleski, an exercise physiologist with the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute’s Department of Preventive Cardiology, “and the benefits continue to pile up with every minute after that in a dose response fashion, meaning the more we do, the more benefits we get.”

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