When we think of the improvements that exercise can bring to our bodies, we usually think of athletic performance. Exercise increases our strength and makes us fitter. And we know that it can improve the health of our heart and lungs. But regular exercise can do a lot more than this.
It can improve your memory and cognition. It can defeat depression. It provides a powerful boost to your immune system. And it can even make your very DNA functionally younger.
I hope that one of your New Year’s resolutions is to exercise more this year. In today’s issue – several reasons why you should…
Exercise for Your Body Creates the Building Blocks for Your Brain
On a recent visit home, I saw our neighbor Tom. He was out for his brisk daily walk and we stopped to chat. As always, I was impressed. Tom is 84 years old and he still walks two to three miles most days. His mind is sharp too. He is quick with a joke. And he always remembers the details of previous conversations.
I thought about Tom when I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about our brains and aging. It is well known that our brainpower (and volume) begins a slow, natural decline starting in our 40s. Memory and cognition suffer the most.
Studies show that by challenging our brains – with mental exercises like crossword puzzles, reading, playing musical instruments, etc. – helps to keep us mentally sharp. But we now know that exercise can be even more effective.
Until about a decade ago, scientists did not believe that old brains grow new neurons. That assumption has now been overturned. One study, published in the journal Gerontology, showed that as little as three hours a week of aerobic exercise increased the volume of gray matter (neurons) and white matter (connections between neurons) in the brains of elderly patients.
The results of this were not just evident in the MRI results. The subjects of the study also improved their memory and cognitive scores.
If you want to be able to do mental gymnastics in your old age, it might pay to take up real gymnastics today. At the very least, be sure to get out and take a brisk walk five or six days a week.
More Proof You Can Exercise Your Way to a Younger Brain…
Without a doubt, exercise can turn an old body into a much younger one. Here is more research that it can do the same thing for your brain.
An animal study conducted at the University of Florida has shown that exercise decreases cellular aging in the brain. Researchers studied two groups of rats. One group was allowed to exercise freely on an exercise wheel. The second group was sedentary.
After two years, the researchers found that the moderately active rats had healthier DNA. They also had more robust brain cells and less oxidative damage in the brain. In fact, according to the researchers, the DNA from these animals looked like it was from rats one quarter their age.
The amount of exercise the rats did is the equivalent of a 30-minute walk or a one-mile run for a human. The message is clear. If you want to maintain your brain, it pays to get off your butt!
Can Muscles Help You Live Longer?
You know that exercise strengthens your heart and lungs. And I have just shown how it can boost your brainpower. But that’s not all. It can also improve your immune system – especially muscle-building resistance exercise.
White blood cells and antibodies are the foundation of your immune system. And both are produced from protein. When you have well-developed muscles, you have a ready supply of protein to make these antibodies and cells in times of need. This is just one reason why strength training is so important, especially as you age (when muscle mass naturally decreases).
Natural killer (NK) cells are a specific type of white blood cell. These cells play a critical role against infectious agents and also cancer cells. Several studies have shown that these healthy warriors are directly proportional to muscle mass in the older population. Studies have also shown that exercise not only increases their numbers, it can also improve their ability to kill invading cells (cytotoxicity). One study, also published in Gerontology showed that intense exercise boosted the cytotoxicity of NK cells by 50 to 200 percent.
Why You Should Exercise Today… and Every Day
There are times when you will work out more strenuously than others, but you should make an effort to do SOMETHING every day. Too many of us go from the bed to a car to a desk to a couch and then back to bed again, without breaking a sweat. We do this for weeks on end. And recent research shows just how harmful it can be.
In a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia, researchers had a group of rats run on exercise wheels consistently for three weeks. Then they locked the wheels. Within only 48 hours they found that the rat’s sensitivity to insulin dropped by one third. They also found that insulin sensitivity continued to decrease the longer the rats were inactive.
Insulin binds with receptors on muscle tissue and creates a path for the glucose in your bloodstream to be transferred into the muscles and other tissues. When you are active, this metabolic process is rapid and efficient. However, when you are sedentary (even for 48 hours) the efficiency is reduced and it takes greater and greater amounts of insulin to reduce the glucose in your blood. Decreased sensitivity to insulin is a precursor for just about every degenerative disease. And exercise is one of the best ways to increase your sensitivity to insulin.
Resolve to exercise every day for the next two weeks…
If you have made a resolution to exercise more this year, you have made a very good decision. Now follow through on your promise. For the next two weeks, don’t let a day go by without doing some form of exercise.
Vigorous exercise is best. But even if all you have time for on some days is a walk around the block… or 20 push-ups… or 10 minutes of stretching before bed… do something! And don’t skip a day for the next two weeks. After that, you will already be feeling better. And you will have momentum on your side to continue.
Regular exercise can literally turn back hands of time. A lifetime of activity is the best thing you can possibly do to maintain your youth.
To Your Health,
Editorial Director Total Health Breakthroughs