Exercise Boosts Brain Power, Lowers Cancer Risk, and Much More!
Health experts encourage us to exercise to stay in shape, but did you know there is more to physical activity than losing weight and getting fit?
This article examines how exercise affects your body and mind.
Exercises like cardio, yoga, calisthenics, weightlifting, and others affect different body parts. Regardless of the form of exercise, they all play an essential role in maintaining a healthy body.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of exercise:
Weight Loss: A widely known benefit of exercise is that it burns fat and calories. It helps tone the body and decreases weight. Fortunately, not all exercise needs to be intense. Everyday activities such as taking the stairs, walking, cycling to work, or walking while speaking on the phone can help the body burn calories more regularly.
Improves circulatory functions and cardiac health: Physical activity helps eliminate bad cholesterol (LDL) and promotes good cholesterol (HDL). Removing unhealthy cholesterol improves blood circulation throughout the body. Moreover, cardiologists state exercise is good for the heart and supports cardiac health.
Improves immune system health: The importance of exercise for the immune system is underrated. With regular exercise, bacteria may be eliminated from the airways faster, thus, improving breathing.
According to research, exercise may improve the immune system’s ability to locate and remove pathogens. It could also help the body create antibodies and T-cells necessary that fight acute viral respiratory infections, pathogens, and foreign substances. Research suggests exercise may enhance the vaccine response in the body.
Regular exercise may also reduce stress, providing a much-needed boost to an immune system weakened by chronic stress. Scientists also suggest that “people who engage regularly in moderate exercise are often resistant to many diseases.“
Skin health maintenance: Moderate exercise is great for the skin, as it increases blood flow to the skin and helps remove free radicals and waste products from active cells. Improving blood flow throughout the body means more oxygen and nutrients get carried to your organs (your skin is an organ too!). Exercise may also improve the appearance of cellulite.
Symptom mitigation for auto-immune diseases like Lupus and Fibromyalgia: Exercise could help ease symptoms associated with auto-immune disease. It may reduce inflammation in people with auto-immune conditions by controlling the inflammatory pathways that increase inflammation in the body. Low energy and fatigue are symptoms of Lupus that exercise may improve.
Stress relief: Working out is a great way to ease emotional and mental stress because it helps regulate hormones and acts as a positive outlet for releasing stress. Studies reveal that a 30-minute brisk walk can help calm the mind.
Energy level boost: Exercise could increase energy levels and stamina, allowing for more energy throughout the day.
Improves strength: Regular exercise also increases muscle strength, potentially helping you perform daily chores with more ease (e.g., carrying grocery bags from the supermarket, shoveling snow, and holding children, to name a few).
Increased metabolism: Exercise improves metabolism. As most people age, their muscle mass declines, causing a slower metabolism. Therefore, it becomes vital to engage in some form of regular exercise. Increased metabolism aids in weight loss and prevents or slows down gaining unnecessary pounds.
May stave off cognitive problems: Exercise may protect the brain against or delay certain neurological diseases. Some health conditions are unavoidable, but regular physical activity may delay them. Examples include Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.
High-intensity exercise may delay the advancement of Parkinson’s and boost neuronal activity. It may also increase important brain proteins like Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Other types of exercise like “forced exercises” may slow down the deterioration of motor symptoms in Parkinson’s.
Improves erectile dysfunction in men: Exercise is known to improve blood circulation throughout the body. One way it improves blood circulation is by increasing nitric oxide levels. Nitric Oxide is a naturally occurring vasodilator compound released from the endothelial cells, which are small cells that border the blood vessels. Physical activity triggers the endothelium cells to release nitric oxide.
Vasodilators like nitric oxide help widen blood vessels and increase blood flow to the organs, muscle cells, etc. Low nitric oxide levels have been associated with high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction. Nitric Oxide is considered a key compound for penile erection because it gets “[…] Released by nerve and endothelial cells in the corpora cavernosa of the penis” (i.e., the shaft or the body of the penis).
InnovativeMen.com states that “Often, it is erectile problems that are the first sign of cardiovascular disease.”
Research shows that regular exercise could improve erectile dysfunction in men. In one six-month research study, participants saw improvements in their erectile dysfunction with 160 minutes of weekly exercise.
Researchers from the study concluded: “Overall, weekly exercise of 160 minutes for 6 months contributes to decreasing erectile problems in men with ED caused by physical inactivity, obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and/or cardiovascular diseases.”
A Harvard University study saw similar results: “According to one Harvard study, just 30 minutes of walking a day was linked with a 41% drop in risk for ED. Other research suggests that moderate exercise can help restore sexual performance in obese middle-aged men with ED.”
Preserves Our Telomeres: Human chromosomes have protective endcaps called telomeres. Our telomeres start out long at birth and naturally shorten due to the aging process.
The length of the telomere cap is inversely related to the lifespan of an individual. In other words, telomere length is considered the marker of biological aging. According to research, exercise may lengthen, preserve, or slow down telomere shortening, and help keep your DNA “young.”
A 2017 Brigham Young University study revealed that participants who exercised regularly and worked up a good sweat had longer telomeres than participants who were sedentary or engaged in minimal exercise.
One of the researchers for the study, exercise science professor, Larry Tucker stated, “Just because you’re 40, doesn’t mean you’re 40 years old biologically.” Tucker also said, “We all know people that seem younger than their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies.”
He also discovered that people who exercise regularly and work up a good sweat may slow their biological aging clock by up to 9 years, especially if they are very active. An example he gave of being very active was jogging for 30 to 40 minutes five days a week. People who are moderately active also benefit as they will have a slower biological aging clock than those who are sedentary.
A 2013 study analyzed businessmen participants for 30 years and discovered that those who engaged in moderately-intense exercise had longer telomeres than participants who did not exercise or over-exercised.
A 2008 study analyzed hundreds of sets of twins’ telomeres. The twins were broken up into two groups: no exercise or very minimal exercise and regular exercise (at least 3 hours a week). The results confirmed what researchers believed about exercise’s effects on telomere preservation. The one twin who regularly exercised had longer telomeres than the other twin who was sedentary or barely exercised.
Although the exact mechanisms aren’t clear, researchers believe that exercise may preserve telomere length because it lowers inflammation and oxidative stress, two factors that shorten telomeres. Research studies have shown that regular exercise reduces oxidative stress and lowers inflammatory markers that promote chronic inflammation.
Additionally, with shorter telomeres, our DNA has fewer protective barriers or shields exposing it to more damage and cell dysfunction. The shorter the telomeres, the more we get exposed to conditions like high blood pressure, cancer, neurological disorders, etc.
Eye Health: In addition to other forms of eye health (e.g., regular eye exams, protective wear, diet), physical activity, in particular, cardiovascular exercises (i.e., cardio, aerobics), may keep your eyes healthy.
According to experts, exercise helps improve blood flow to the optic nerve and the retina. It may also reduce the pressure in your eyes, known as intraocular pressure. By keeping intraocular pressure low, the retinal ganglion cells are more protected against damage.
Some studies suggest regular exercise may even lower your risk or reduce the severity of eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration.
Boosts self-confidence: Exercise may boost self-confidence because of the overall positive effects it has on the body and mind.
Sleep pattern improvement: Exercise increases body temperature, resulting in a hyperactive state.
When the temperature drops to normal, the body signals the brain to sleep, so an exercised or physically active body tends to rest well. The exertion from the workout may help you experience deeper sleep.
Brainpower and memory boost: Studies suggest that people who work out regularly may have more brainpower than those who do not. The brain gets “lazy,” just like the rest of our bodies. Exercising is one way to keep the brain active. It could improve mental concentration and memory and enhance problem-solving skills. Exercise has also been shown to promote cell development in the hippocampus region of the brain.
Keeps creative juices flowing: Exercise may help you think more creatively. Studies reveal that a 30-minute walk may effectively assist with finding out-of-the-box solutions for problems.
Enhanced mood: Regular exercise can help enhance your mood. It has been shown to increase serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, mood, and sleep.
Endorphins are natural mood enhancers that typically increase with regular exercise and physical movement. Exercise may be just as effective as anti-depressants at helping ease depression symptoms, which is why some doctors recommend it for patients suffering from depression.
Improves fertility: Exercise may improve ovulation and fertility. According tommys.com, women who engage in moderate exercise a few days a week may increase their chances of getting pregnant faster than women who do not exercise or barely exercise.
YourFertility.org.au suggested that moderate exercise could help improve the chances of conceiving and reduce miscarriages for women undergoing assisted reproductive technology or ART.
Exercise helps the body regulate hormones, improve reproductive function, and reduce inflammation, which can affect fertility. It should be noted that overexercising or vigorous exercise several days a week may lead to ovulation problems that could hurt fertility.
Addiction recovery aid: Short workout sessions may help people recover from addiction. They could be healthy distractions that stable the mind, elevate mood, and reduce undesirable body urges.
Outdoor enjoyment: Workouts like walking, roller skating, jogging, or exercises done in parks and outside can help you enjoy the outdoors in a unique way. Nature is the best therapy, and fresh air helps rejuvenate your body and mind. It can also help you get adequate vitamin D from sun exposure, a necessity for skin and bone health.
May relieve arthritic pain: It may seem counterintuitive to exercise to relieve arthritic pain symptoms, but it is not. Experts often recommend engaging in some form of moderate exercise to ease arthritic pain.
Chad Helmick, M. D. stated, “A long time ago, doctors would meet people with arthritis and tell them to rest their joints. […] Actually, resting your joints stiffens them up.”
Low-impact exercises like walking, biking, spinning, swimming, the elliptical, and aquatic aerobics would not put more strain on the joints. These types of exercises may help alleviate strain and reduce joint pain.
Lowers cancer risk: Regular exercise may reduce the risk of up to 13 types of cancer (e.g., breast, prostate, colon, endometrium, and to an extent, pancreatic cancer). Experts have proposed many beliefs about exercise’s ability to lower cancer risk. One belief is that it reduces inflammation and oxidative stress.
Many studies have shown that moderately-intense exercise can lower inflammation and oxidative stress/damage in the body. These two factors may have a role in cancer development.
Additionally, exercise helps regulate blood sugar, hormones (especially estrogen and insulin), growth factor hormones, digestion, weight, and the immune system, all of which play a role in cancer risk.
May lower mortality rate: Studies have found that exercise like walking can increase the longevity of a person’s life. A published 1998 study revealed that men who walked over two miles a day had lower mortality rates than men who walked less than a mile.
A recently published 2021 study suggested that people who take a minimum of 7,000 steps a day may lower their mortality risk by 50 to 70 percent.
Physical activity provides endless benefits, and this article named only a few of the many ways it can help your body. It is one of the best medicines for improving health and well-being; the best part is you can do it anywhere.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.
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