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Exercise plays an important role in chronic disease prevention

Local health experts discuss the importance of regular physical activity and demonstrate simple exercises that you can do anywhere.
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About Focus on Issues

GRTV's Focus on Issues features nonprofits and community groups collaborating on social issues in Grand Rapids. The program is produced and hosted by Julie Way, Nonprofit Outreach Coordinator at the Community Media Center. You can catch it on GRTV and can also view past episodes on the Community Media Center's website. If there is an issue in our community that you would like to discuss on the show, please contact Julie Way.

Theresa Rupinksi and Teri Harmon demonstrate simple partner exercises.

Theresa Rupinksi and Teri Harmon demonstrate simple partner exercises. /GRTV

Isabel Ornelas participates in a group exercise class through Healthier Communities' Programa Puente

Isabel Ornelas participates in a group exercise class through Healthier Communities' Programa Puente /Spectrum Health

With fitness trends like CrossFit and wearable technology like the Fitbit, it’s easier than ever for people to get on (and stay on!) the exercise train. Even so, our dedication to exercise is often tied to losing weight, or getting our "beach body" ready for the summer. But the role that regular exercise plays in our overall health and wellness runs much deeper than a day at the beach.

“Physical activity has a huge role in not only preventing many types of chronic diseases, but also in the treatment of them,” says Kim Delafuente, Exercise Physiologist for Spectrum Health Healthier Communities.

According to health experts, lack of physical activity often exacerbates chronic diseases, and may even be the primary cause of many diseases.

“Many times when people have a diagnosis, [they] tend to restrict their activity as opposed to keeping moving, and it actually kind of creates this downhill spiral where they less active they become, the sicker they become,” said Delafuente.

Along with reducing the risk of chronic disease, regular exercise reduces stress and boosts your mood – key pieces in staying mentally healthy, too.

So what’s the best exercise to get your body and mind feeling great?

“I get this all the time,” said Teri Harmon, Association Director of Fitness Programs and Services for the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. “And my answer is, whatever you like, whatever you’re going to stick with.”

You should always check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Both Delafuente and Harmon suggest setting simple, realistic goals when getting started.

“Just finding those opportunities throughout the day to move is key. Unfortunately, our society forces us to sit more, be at computers, and we don’t always have the opportunity to move, so we have to become intentional…even standing has some health benefits,” said Delafuente.

In the Focus on Issues segment above, Harmon, along with Ashley Lustre and Theresa Rupinski, Exercise Science Majors at Grand Valley State University, demonstrate easy exercises that you can do at home or work with little to no equipment.

“Even smaller spurts of activity is better than nothing, and can really do quite a bit to improve health,” said Delafuente.

“Allow [yourself] to be accepting of whatever will work for your lifestyle,” said Harmon.

Both organizations have several programs to help support you in your health and wellness goals, no matter where you are in life. The GRYMCA has a diabetes prevention program and a Livestrong program for those in treatment for cancer, while Healthier Communities has Programa Puente and Fit for Life, wellness programs that focus on at-risk populations.

Watch the episode of GRTV’s Focus on Issues above, or catch it airing on GRTV and LiveWire, to learn more about the importance of exercise and to get more tips about starting your own exercise routine.

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