The prescription for well-being and the ability to live an active, independent life is to keep moving.

Health is not just the absence of disease, but it is an optimal balance between mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Most of the time, being healthy is a choice. While it is true that some have greater barriers such as a family history of chronic illness or obesity, lingering effects of past illness, or an accident or injury that may lead to long-term deficits, we can and need to take control of our own health.

A healthy lifestyle is a proactive approach to taking control of your health with the goal of improving your quality of life. Whether you are recovering from an illness, accident, or working to prevent and maintain good health, it is important to understand the role that physical activity and other healthy habits play.

Research from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggests that up to 80% of cases of chronic disease can be prevented through healthy living. The CDC says we should strive to meet the following healthy living factors:

• Maintain a healthy weight: A BMI of less than 30 is considered healthy.

• Abstain from smoking: Don’t start smoking and quit if you are an active smoker.

• Be active: get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, which equals at least 150 minutes per week.

• Diet: include fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources in your diet

Following these tips can reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and cancer. Besides prevention, exercise can also be used to cure many diseases, improve mental health, maintain weight, relieve osteoporosis or arthritis, and much more. Exercise may also help people with lingering effects of COVID-19 such as fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fast or pounding heartbeat, anxiety or depression, concentration, memory loss and joint discomfort.

When you start exercising, remember to start slowly and monitor your progress while being aware of how the movement makes you feel. Start with a slow walk and progress gradually. Walking, cycling and swimming are great ways to improve your cardiovascular fitness and your breathing. Once you feel comfortable with light to moderate exercise, more intense movements like running, hiking, or cardio classes may be appropriate.

Strengthening exercises are also important. Sit-up, squat, basic upper limb movements and core conditioning are especially beneficial. Remember to stretch each muscle within its range of motion, as this will relieve joint discomfort and help improve overall movement.

The Sam B. Cook Healthplex has a team of professionals who can help get you started in the right direction. Cardiac nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, athletic trainers and exercise specialists will work together to safely help you improve your health through exercise and movement.

Whatever your reason, exercise is for you! Think of it as insurance for good health.

Kay Benward is an exercise specialist and supervisor at Sam B. Cook Healthplex Fitness Center. She has worked at Capital Region Medical Center for 30 years and has inspired many people to lead healthy lives through exercise. She continues to teach classes and enjoys training the mature adult in balance, posture, and functional strength, as well as educating her clients, staff, and community about exercise as medicine.