We all know that exercise is healthy for us. We have known this for a long time. But do you know exactly HOW healthy it is for you? Do you know WHY you should be working out? If you know why you should be doing something, you are more likely to stick with it. As you will see, exercising is important for so many other reasons besides weight loss. It is reported that the average American spends 10 hours per day sitting, but research shows that this level of inactivity cannot be counteracted with just a 60 minute workout. At the minimum you need to get up and move around at least every 50-60 minutes. In fact, evidence suggests that sitting for over eight hours per day is an independent risk factor for developing insulin resistance, leading to systemic inflammation and an early death, even if you eat right or are an Olympic athlete. As you will see below, inflammation is the cause for all chronic diseases, dying early, developing chronic pain, depression, etc. If you know how to get rid of inflammation in your body, then you can conquer the world!! Or at least live a long and fruitful life.
The latest research shows that exercising has the following benefits that you may or may not have realized:
- Exercise decreases your risk for chronic diseases, including CANCER, reoccurrence of cancer, metastasis of cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma and obesity. Isn’t this enough to make you go for that run? But wait, there is more…..
- Exercise enhances memory. According to a study done at the University of British Columbia, regular aerobic exercise (as opposed to resistance training) was found to boost the size of your hippocampus, which is the area in your brain responsible for memory and learning. This is such an important finding because dementia is a devastating and debilitating disease that has no cure. Scientists say that there is a person diagnosed with dementia every FOUR SECONDS globally, and by the year 2050 more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide. But this latest research suggests that you may be able to help combat it with moderate aerobic exercise. Pretty cool, right?
- Exercise decreases brain fog. Brain fog is thought to be from inflammation in the brain from some underlying cause, causing forgetfulness, lack of mental clarity, confusion, and inability to focus. The cause of brain fog is from inflammation and oxidative stress (free radicals). Inflammation and free radicals can be caused by inactivity, a poor diet consisting of processed foods and sugar, food allergies or sensitivities, environmental toxins (indoor and outdoor pollution, medications, etc) chronic stress, imbalanced hormones, poor sleep habits, etc. Brain inflammation has been linked to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Sjogren’s and Lupus. Exercise has also been shown to stimulate new brain cell formation and increase blood flow to the brain, which decreases inflammation and gives you a small energy boost.
- Exercise reduces inflammation. Inflammation is the reason for all chronic diseases, as previously discussed. Physical exercise burns off excess cortisol, which is implicated in chronic stress, causing chronic inflammation. To go a little further, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to be the most effective way to maximize exercise’s effects and benefits, lowering inflammation, decreasing insulin resistance, releasing fat from adipose cells and burning of fat within skeletal muscle. However, resistance training also decreases inflammation and insulin resistance, and should not be discounted. The bottom line is that exercise is vital to combat the deadly effects of inflammation.
- Exercise reduces insulin resistance. During exercise, your body burns glycogen, a form of glucose that is stored in your muscles. After exercise, your muscles replenish their glycogen stores with glucose from the bloodstream. The more glycogen that is burned during a bout of activity, the longer the body’s insulin sensitivity is improved. Studies state that even after a single bout of exercise, insulin sensitivity is increased for up to 16 hours afterwards in both healthy people and Diabetic people alike. In fact, that single bout of moderate intensity exercise can increase glucose uptake by 40%. Brain insulin resistance is a main contributor in Diabetes Type II. Some are even calling Alzheimer’s Disease Diabetes Type III because of its profound effects on the brain. It is expected that at least 13.8 million Americans will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s dementia by the year 2050, with healthcare costs for them costing $1.2 trillion.
- Exercise helps with depression. This link is not entirely known, but there have been many research studies trying to determine the exact cause. Aerobic activity that elevates the heart rate helps release “feel good” neurotransmitters and endorphins responsible for helping us feel happier. Endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain and enhance positive feelings, similar to effects of the pain medication Morphine. Exercise also increases our body temperature, which can have a calming effect on our mood. Exercise can also help indirectly with anxiety, stress, mood, sleep, and can boost your self-esteem and body image.
- Exercise helps reduce chronic pain. When you are in pain, it may be difficult to exercise, especially if it flares your pain. Chronic pain is pain that has lasted beyond the body’s usual healing time. I recommend a proper neuromusculoskeletal evaluation to determine the cause of your pain, to ensure you won’t further injure yourself, and to address muscular imbalances that may be contributing to your chronic pain and resolve them. That being said, exercise is very beneficial for chronic pain and is essential to prevent deconditioning and further pain and stiffness. Chronic pain is different than acute pain (stubbing your toe), with your central nervous system affected, which becomes overly sensitive to pain. Exercise improves your blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which helps you feel better over time by decreasing that sensitivity to pain in your brain. Exercise also helps to keep your joints moving to decrease muscular tightness and arthritis pains, keep your muscles strong and support bone health, improve your sleep quality, help with weight control, and again release those “feel-good” endorphins to boost your mood.
- Exercise delays aging. A recent study looking at extreme longevity stated that having very low levels of inflammation in your body is the BIGGEST predictor of living past 100 years old. Inflammation also corresponds to the quality of your life, including the ability to live independently and maintain cognitive function. HIIT exercise has been shown to release the “anti-aging” hormone, human growth hormone (HGH), which is often referred to as the “fitness hormone”.
The opposite of exercise is being sedentary. So take everything that exercise helps with (see list above) and that is what being sedentary causes. A sedentary lifestyle contributes directly and indirectly to chronic disease, inflammation, cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s, dementia, chronic musculoskeletal pains (low back pain for example), worsened arthritis pains, brain fog, accelerated aging, etc.
So you might be thinking, what the heck can I do to help myself? How much should I exercise? Some studies suggest five days per week of HIIT training 10-20 minutes. Some studies suggest 30 minutes moderate intensity exercise daily, while others say 45 minutes of exercise three times per week. What is clear: you need to be exercising consistently and getting that heart rate elevated to produce the positive benefits. You also need to be moving throughout the day, every day, to combat the effects of sitting. The plethora of research studies that have surfaced all point to the FACT that exercise improves your quality of life and extends the duration of your life. Exercise should be the go-to defensive line to get healthy and stay healthy. Use exercise as your medicine! You don’t have to buy an expensive gym membership or have fancy equipment to experience the health benefits of exercise, though. Just be active; even activities like mowing the lawn, gardening, walking, cleaning the house, etc. all count towards exercise.
My next blog will be exploring free/cheap exercise classes and groups that Charlotte has to offer for those on a budget. Speaking as someone who is new to Charlotte, I can tell you Charlotte has SO much to offer in terms of free or cheap workouts all around town every day of the week! There is literally no excuse if you haven’t found your “gym” or running group yet. You just have to get out there!
Wondering how to begin, what to do or how to be able to exercise without pain? Just give us a call today for an evaluation or click here to request an appointment.
Author: Courtenay Schroeder, DC
The information and reference guides in this website are intended solely for informational purposes only to promote consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. The contents of this website are not intended to offer personal medical advice, diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any questions or advice on any exercise, medication, nutrition or supplementation.