The Payoff: Disease Prevention with Ejercicio

Here’s another motivating reason to start exercising: Aside from weight loss, working out can help prevent diabetes, cancer and a number of other diseases. Luckily, it doesn’t take a lot of time or a gym membership to get moving. Las Fabulosas rounds up the best -- and easiest -- exercises anyone can do, and the diseases they may help ward off.

Walk to Prevent Heart Disease

An inactive lifestyle is a leading cause of heart disease. The reality is that Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanic women. Along with a healthy, balanced dieta, exercise is your number one way to strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.

According to a Harvard study, being active for 2.5 hours a week can lower your risk of developing heart disease by 30 percent. Forget the leisurely stroll, and push toward a moderate intensity walk (3 to 4 mph) in which you keep your arms swinging bent at 90 degrees and experience heavier breathing than normal. For proper walking, keep your back and shoulders straight, take equal length steps and wear supportive shoes.

“Busy moms can push their little ones in the stroller for a walk jog,” says Pamela Peeke, M.D., American College of Sports Medicine spokeswoman for Exercise is Medicine. “Or put on a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps running after the kids.”

Dance to Prevent Cancer

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Latinas. Again, regularly exercising 2.5 hours per week, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, may lower the risk of getting breast cancer by up to 40 percent, and can lower the risk of recurring cancer. It is believed that vigorous fitness helps to regulate hormones, lowering the level of estrogen in the body.

The key here is higher intensity activity, all cardio is great, says Dr. Peeke. Don’t like the gym? Don’t worry. Anything that raises your heart rate and causes you to break a sweat counts. Grab a partner for a dance class, or pop in a Salsa dance DVD.

Bike to Prevent Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, with which the body does not properly use insulin, affects about one in 10 Latinos. This disease may be caused by obesity, but even a small weight loss can reduce the risk for a diagnosis. A study from the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that a reduced activity level increased levels of blood glucose after eating.

A healthy diet along with leading an active lifestyle can help to manage glucose levels. The Diabetes Prevent Program suggests 30 minutes of physical activity, five days per week. Riding a bicicleta is an easy and fun way to fit exercise into your schedule. If possible, ride to and from work instead of driving. Or, take your bike to run your errands instead of your car.

Stretch to Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, a disease of the bones, occurs when you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or a combination of the two. To keep bones healthy and strong, include enough calcium in your diet as well as a variety of exercises. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends two types of exercises for building and maintaining bone density: weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening.

Weight-bearing exercises include activities, such as stair climbing, hiking and jumping rope, in which your lower body supports your weight. Skip the elevator and take the stairs, or just run your stairs in your house. On the weekends, bring the family for a healthy hike.

Muscle-strengthening exercises include activities, such as weights, yoga and water exercises, which force you to move a weight or involve resistance. Invest in a set of free weights or a yoga mat to exercise at home. “Using high intensity interval training is optimal,” says Dr. Peeke. If you have a little one, consider a swim class so the both of you can get the healthy exercise your body needs. Any activities in the water make your muscles work harder.

by Lauren Fischer