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The Science of Living Well
September 19, 2017
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Renewal Exercise

Body in Motion

The more physically fit you are, the longer you will live, concludes the largest study yet to examine the effects of fitness on life span. More than 13,000 men and women were followed over an 11-year period at the Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas. To make sure participants were capable of fitness and not likely to die of a preexisting disease, only healthy people were allowed into the study.

The results: The least physically fit people were three times more likely to die (of all causes) during the study period than the most fit. And the least fit were eight times more likely to die of heart or cardiovascular disease than the most fit.

The Role of Exercise in Renewal

Exercise buffs up your circulatory system, so more nutrient-rich blood can access more areas of your body. Your body will have developed that more-powerful heart and those sleek, muscle-bound jumbo vessels to service those large, hungry, churning leg and trunk muscles. But guess what? From brain to big toe, the entire body, literally every cell, is the beneficiary of this abundance. Protection is strengthened, repair is more rapid. Healing is enhanced and accelerated. Let me share some examples.

The brain can send and receive nerve and hormone signals faster. The hypothalamus gland (which regulates hunger, thirst, and sex drive) and the pineal gland (which regulates sleep and waking, stress, and immunity) can send out more accurate signals to the rest of the body, which can respond more promptly and effectively to them. The thyroid and adrenal glands, which regulate metabolic activity levels, can make sure you have enough energy. The digestive organs will digest, absorb, and deliver nutrients better. The liver can process blood with greater efficiency, and the kidneys use the extra flow to clean house better. The hormones of the endocrine system go to their target tissue destinations more rapidly and give more appropriate feedback messages. I could go on and on, but you get the point: Everything works better.

Specific benefits of exercise:

  • Enhanced antioxidant activity.
  • Beefed-up production of anti-aging chemicals.
  • Better brainpower.
  • Quicker reflexes.
  • Improved mood.
  • Stronger bones.
  • Protection against cancer.
  • Blood sugar regulation.
  • Weight loss and maintenance.

Getting Started

Start out slowly and increase your activity level gradually. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. Although it is never too late to start, one can't make up for a lifetime of inactivity in one month. An effective exercise program should include 3 basic components:

  • Aerobics
    A regular, moderate aerobic workout cures depression, improves self-esteem, and elevates mood. It gives you increased energy, stamina, and agility. On a metabolic level, it stabilizes your blood sugar levels, reduces cholesterol, and improves fat metabolism. By strengthening the heart and arteries and reducing blood pressure, aerobic exercise dramatically reduces your chances of succumbing to a heart attack, stretching and strength training.
  • Strength Training
    Strength training induces the development of additional new muscle cells and more resilient tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Added strength improves neuromuscular control, which in turn protects you from injury. Strength training is especially important for the back, since lower-back pain is often caused by weakness of the abdominal and/or back muscles.
  • Stretching
    Flexibility diminishes with age. Muscle fibers shorten. Connective tissue loses elasticity. Stretching slows these changes, integrates the other aspects of a conditioning program, and improves the flexibility of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint tissues and protects them from injury. Ballet, tai chi, and yoga all increase flexibility. But just doing stretching exercises will suffice.

A good cross-training program should allow you to fit in all 3 types of renewal exercises in one workout. Diet and nutritional supplements also play a major role in the effectiveness of any exercise program. Consult with your physician about any specific health concerns or Ask Dr. Smith

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