EXERCISE A Cure For All Illness…Mental problem, obesity, lethargy, heart problem, sleeping disorders, fatty internal organs, impotence, breathing difficulties, poor concentration, low self-esteem and a weakened immunity are some of the conditions from which science says that these can be cured.
But Prof John Brewer, head of the School of Sport, Health and Applied Science at St Mary’s University in London, warns: “Listen to your body. Exercise is about adaptation, you put your body through stresses that it has to adjust to. As a result, rest and recovery are as vital as the workout itself to ensuring exercise is effective in the long term. Always seek out expert advice, or talk with your doctor.”
The key is to get the right balance – you need to push your body to achieve the best results from the natural benefits of exercise, but you also need to give it time to recover. So what does science say are the exact health benefits of exercise?Read now to find out:
Hit the highs
Beyond the positive influence exercise has upon your muscle strength, fat levels and general physical well-being, exercise can trigger a series of chemical reactions that influence your hormonal response and brain activity.
“One of the most widely acknowledged benefits is the ‘runner’s high’,” explains Dr Peter Herbert, a physiologist at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Back in the 1990s, researchers began to identify links between exercise and feelings of euphoria that stem from the release of hormones. “The ‘runner’s high’ as we now know it stems from the creation in the body of endorphins, designed to ease pain in the body.”
Although the ‘sweet spot’ for endorphin release is commonly said to be a comfortable-to-hard effort run, Dr Herbert points out that many forms of exercise can trigger the high. Research from Oxford University even found that simply exercising in groups raised the release of endorphins quicker for some than exercising alone.
“These endorphins are opioid neuropeptides – chemicals that numb pain, similar to opioids such as morphine or codeine,” adds Dr Herbert. As a result, exercise and the release of endorphin substances may contribute to pain relief and relaxation.
Keep your heart healthy
“Walk a minimum of 150 minutes a week to lower your risk of heart disease.”
Hypertension, or high blood pressure issues, can be combated through exercise.“Aerobic activity, even at moderate levels through regular walking, has been shown to trigger vascular adaptations, developing the capillaries, easing constrictions in peripheral circulation, and reducing pressure,” says Prof Brewer.
It’s just one example of how exercise can be a significant contributor to cutting cardiovascular disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in the US and the UK.
Getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can lower your risk of heart disease, reports the American Heart Association – while also improving your cholesterol levels.
Defend against depression
“Exercise stimulates the production of mood-lifting serotonin.”
Over time, the hormonal response that exercise triggers is an effective treatment for depression. Research published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience shows raised levels of tryptophan in athletes, especially in endurance runners (tryptophan raises levels of the mood-elevating neurotransmitter known as serotonin). Psychology specialists at the University of Essex have also recorded significant improvements in mood and self-esteem, along with fewer incidents of depression among those who exercise outdoors.
“For many people exercise, and the positive impact it has upon the way you look, can also be a remedy for melancholy,” says Prof Brewer. “Studies confirm exercise can contribute to curing low self-esteem, especially among those who workout with a team.”
Beat brittle bones
“Regular strengthening exercise helps your muscles and your skeleton.”
“The aging process can take its toll on your bones, joints and muscles,” explains Dr Herbert. Medical conditions such as arthritis of the joints and the natural depletion of bone density put us at greater risk of serious injury if we have accidents such as falls.
But simply taking part in routine bone and muscle-strengthening aerobic exercise can slow the loss of bone density as we age. For age-related health issues, such as a hip fracture, making sure you’re doing moderately intense walking for 120 to 300 minutes a week will cut your risk.
Exercise has been shown to help in the prevention of arthritis and other conditions affecting the joints, such as gout and osteoarthritis. Research also shows low impact aerobic activity can help those suffering with joint conditions to better manage their pain.
Keep it up
“Sexual function, and problems such as impotence, may be given a helping hand by regular workouts.”
Research from the US and Nigeria shows that for men with erectile dysfunction, aerobic exercise can provide a natural alternative to the little blue pills. “Certainly major components in the causes of impotence can be physical – with a sedentary lifestyle often cited as a risk factor in it occurring,” explains Prof Brewer. Psychological issues, such as low self-esteem and high levels of stress, are also given as reasons for impotence –something exercise can also help.
“Exercise may reduce the risk of Colon Cancer by as much as 25 percent.”
Running, walking, cycling or playing an active role in team sports can provide a natural medicine to ward off type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome – a condition with symptoms that may include too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, low HDL (good)cholesterol, high triglycerides or high blood sugar.
A series of studies has shown that exercising at a moderate intensity for 120 to 150 minutes a week reduces these risk factors.
Research also reveals how exercise is becoming key to reducing the risk of some cancers. Regular physical activity was found to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women by 12 per cent, while the impact it can have on reducing colon cancer in men and women may be as high as 25 per cent.
Although studies continue, there is some suggestion that a person’s risk of endometrial cancer and lung cancer may be lower if they perform regular physical activity than compared to people who are not active.
Fend off fat
“Exercise burns calories, which inevitably aids weight loss, but running also stifles the production of the ‘hunger hormone’.
One of the most apparent benefits exercise can bring about is weight loss and weight management. A whole host of research, including studies from the Journal of Applied Physiology, highlight how a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training (using weights, machines or bodyweight to train muscles) can have a positive impact on fat levels and waist circumference among overweight subjects. Resistance training has been shown to contribute to the development of muscle mass, changes in body composition and fat reduction.
Just moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as walking, can make serious in-roads into weight loss, too. In one recently published study, from the London School of Economics, researchers found that brisk walking – when done regularly enough – was as good as gym training for those looking to lose or maintain their weight.
Interestingly, a study of 50,000 patients between 1999 and 2012 found that those who walked regularly had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than patients who took part in high-intensity exercise.
Although the results aren’t and shouldn’t be immediate, regular exercise in conjunction with a balanced diet has been shown to be the safest, most effective means of shedding fat and keeping it off.
“The body fuels exercise with energy drawn from within – from blood sugars and body fat,” explains Prof Brewer. “In order to lose weight and reduce body fat levels you need to create a calorie deficit – burning more calories than you consume. To burn off 2lbs (1kg) of fat costs around 8,000-9,000 calories.” Running a marathon will only hit around a third of that figure. By creating a daily deficit of 500 calories, through heart-rate raising exercise and controlling your calorie intake, you can make serious in-roads into your body fat percentages.
Researchers from the University of Western Australia have also found that running contributed to weight control by regulating appetite. Runners performing interval sessions in a trial reported fewer cravings for snacks as a result of the exercise regime curtailing the production of ghrelin, nicknamed the ‘hunger hormone’.
“Exercise keeps us mentally fit too.”
Aerobic exercise, or a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, three to five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes can help maintain learning and keep judgement skills sharp.
Recent research even suggests that exercise throughout one’s lifetime can play a major role in battling the onset of age-related ailments, such as dementia. Several studies, including one from Japan published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine and another presented at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference found that both regular aerobic exercise and some forms of resistance training improved hippocampus-related memory and slowed down cognitive decline.
A study from the University of Montreal noted that those of us who use the weight room to build muscle may be giving the brain a lift, too. The study suggests that the raised levels of growth factor 1 (IGF-1) caused by resistance training helps in neuron (brain cell) growth and longevity.
Natural exercise supplements
A natural stimulant found in tea, coffee, cocoa and colas, caffeine has long been known to enhance performance. Lower doses of caffeine (about 200mg or <3mg per kg body mass) are thought to help improve alertness, mood and concentration during and after exercise, with few if any adverse side effects.
Cherries are a great source of antioxidants, including vitamins A and C, as well as anthocyanins – red, blue, and purple pigments that have potent antioxidant properties. Drinking cherry juice, which contains these components, may help to reduce inflammation and ease muscle soreness after exercise.
Lean red meat is an important source of essential nutrients, including iron, zinc and energy-yielding B-vitamins. Female endurance runners in particular are vulnerable to iron deficiencies and so should try to include lean red meat regularly within their diets.
PROTEIN(Essential amino acids)
Protein is needed during exercise to offset muscle wasting, which can occur when protein intakes are inadequate. High-quality protein, such as that found in fish or red meat, can help to maintain muscle size and strength, particularly when combined with resistance training.
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