Exercise and Good Nutrition
Everyone knows that eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is necessary to give the body all of the nutrients that it needs to be at its peak condition. What they may not know is that exercise can be just as important to optimal health. Sure, you can eat the perfect amount of the healthiest foods, but if you do not ever exercise, you will not reach your health potential.
Exercise has been linked to better functioning of the heart, the brain, and the digestive system, just to name a few. It also plays a major role in preventing or slowing the progression of a number of diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer’s Disease and cardiovascular disease.
Exercise boosts the immune system and can help to boost the metabolism as well. Lean muscle burns more fat per pound than fat. The body expends energy simply maintaining muscle, between 40-120 calories per day, depending on the size of the muscle. The same amount of fat only consumes 1-3 calories per day (Source: Roizen, MD and Oz, MD 2006). The more muscle that you have, the more calories you burn each day, and the healthier you will look and feel. Tightening and toning your core muscles, defined as those in your abdominal and back area, are especially important because it is where your balance comes from. Strong abdominal muscles protect the back by helping to make sure that your posture is straight and erect.
Other Ways that Exercise Can Help to Protect Good Health
A Japanese experiment has shown that exercise reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and may also help to prevent some of the brain fog that is seen in younger people. The study split groups of previously sedentary young adults into an exercising class and a not exercising class and then compared before and after MRIs. The findings showed that the group that were not exercising before or during the study had shrinking gray matter, while the exercising group did not have any changes to their scans.
In addition to physical exercise, those who are at risk for or have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias are encouraged to use mental workouts such as crossword puzzles and other brain teasers to keep the brain working as hard as it can for as long as possible. There are several handheld games that are perfect for keeping the brain young and vital.
Exercise can reduce the inflammatory response of the body. When the body is met with stressors, even in the form of bad food, it responds by releasing C-reactive protein, a blood marker that indicates inflammation and is linked to heart disease. The more stress that the body is under, for instance, from being overweight, exposed to greasy, fried foods and smoking, the more C-reactive protein will be released. Exercise can reduce this inflammatory response, as do better food choices, especially when it comes to fats. Good fats do not cause inflammation, but bad fats do.
Exercise has been shown to reduce breast cancer risk and can save your life if you do develop it. In a study of overweight women, those who started exercising for more than three hours each week were almost half as likely to die from breast cancer than those who exercised for less than half an hour per week (Source: Gelman 2010).
For smokers who are trying to kick the habit, exercise may help them to fight cigarette cravings. In a study, researchers found that even regular smokers (defined as those who smoke four or more cigarettes per day) were less interested in images of other people smoking after fifteen minutes on an exercise bike when compared to when they did no exercise at all (Gelman 2010). Exercise may also help with food cravings. Women who went for a walk immediately after eating did not feel deprived, and were less likely to overeat during a meal.
Exercising is also beneficial for the entire family. Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in this country, and teaching a love of good nutrition and exercise can never come too early. Five year olds who got at least fifty minutes of moderate exercise per day had less body fat at ages eight and eleven than those who got only ten minutes per day. (Source: Parent Magazine, April 2010) Further studies show that obese children tend to come from obese families, especially in lower income or rural areas. These children are at risk for all of the same health risks that adults are and are also at risk for being socially ostracized because of their weight.
Women who exercised regularly during their pregnancy and made sure that their diet included a lot of veggies had children who were less likely to develop Type I diabetes. They also experienced less pain and trauma during the birth of their baby and typically went home faster as well. Pregnant exercisers also typically have fewer problems with constipation, bloating and other discomforts that are common in pregnancy.
Exercise is also beneficial to women entering or completing menopause, especially for its role in preventing or slowing osteoporosis. Strength training and weight bearing exercise is especially good.
For men and women who have arthritis, the suggestion that they get out and exercise might seem like a bad idea; however, if they go to a pool and do exercises, they will get the same benefits without the stress and strain on their stiff and sore joints. In some areas, these classes are created especially for the arthritis sufferer and are done in a gently warmed pool for even more pain relief.
Exercise can be any movement, as long as you end up feeling a little tired, a little sweaty and your heart is pumping a little harder. Dancing, cleaning the house, chasing after a toddler or walking the dog are all exercises, and they all add up.
Donna, the Dog and Dance Class: A Case Study
Donna, age 62, has learned that she is at high risk for osteoporosis. Always a slender woman, she has let herself become rather inactive in recent years and has the appetite of a bird. Her doctor would actually like to see her eat more each day, and increasing both her protein and her calcium intake are her first main goals to work on. She takes up yoga in the mornings, greeting the day with sun salutations and feeling pretty good about it. She also starts volunteering at the local dog shelter, one block over from her house. One sunny morning, she walks over instead of driving around the block. That day she meets Beppy, a Jack Russell terrier with a mangled ear. She immediately begins the process of adopting him.
Flash forward a month: now in addition to her morning yoga, done while her insane Jack Russell twirls and whirls in front of her, she walks the dog twice a day and goes to the gym to lift weights every other afternoon. She also takes a calcium supplement with her breakfast, and between meals, twice a day, she drinks a liquid protein supplement called Profect, from Protica. It gives her 25 grams of protein per serving, plus the vitamins that she needs to stay healthy. Donna has never looked or felt better, and her doctor congratulates her for all of her hard work.