The power of exercise for cardiovascular health hit headlines in October. This was due to the British Medical Journal’s (BMJ) release of findings on the benefit of exercise in cardiovascular disease (1). After interpreting fifty-seven randomized trials, this meta-analysis set out to determine the effect on mortality of exercise and drugs in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, stroke recovery, heart failure treatment, and Type 2 diabetes prevention. The outcome was surprising for most. The “miracle drug” of exercise was comparatively similar in effectiveness to drugs or, in the case of stroke rehabilitation, even better (2).
Since then, it seems like I’m receiving more updates on the power of exercise for many health conditions. Take a look below at the power of exercise in disease prevention and wellness promotion.
1. Exercise for Arthritis
If you have pains in your joints from arthritis, you may think you need to rest them and recover. However, a new study showed that regular exercise not only raised quality of life in those with this condition, but also can reduce spending in health care cost (3).
2. Exercise for Brain & Social Health in Children
Using a systematic review of eight English articles, researchers explored the effects of aerobic physical activity (APA) on children’s physical health, cognition, academia level, and psychosocial function. They reported that APA was positively associated with all these factors and urged for more long-term studies to further assess its effect on cognitive and psychosocial outcomes (4).
3. Exercise for Smarts
Recent research has discovered a possible mechanism behind how exercise might boost brain power. It seems that, by moving your bootie, your memory center releases a substance to trigger your brain to form new brain cells. This complex process is termed neurogenesis. Furthermore, your brain cells also seem to stimulate production of brain-preserving proteins called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF also stimulates the growth of new neurons and may also preserve the communication between your muscles and brain (5, 6).
4. Exercise for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic debilitating disease that attacks the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve of the eye). It can lead to a wide range of symptoms from numbness to paralysis. Researchers from the Institute of Neuroimmunology and Clinical Multiple Sclerosis Research joined with the Competence Center for Sports and Medicine in Hamburg, Germany to determine the effects of exercise on MS patients. They assigned 47 people with MS to two groups. The first group exercised for 8-10 weeks using either a stationary bike, rowing machine, or a set of revolving handle bars. The exercise was 15-45 minutes two to three times each week. The second group was on a waiting list for exercise.
The results of this preliminary study were favorable. Exercise increased walking ability and spirits among moderately and severely disabled MS patients (7).
5. Exercise for Accident Prevention
Falls in the elderly are likely to result in injuries, bruises, or broken bones. In another analysis of the BMJ, 17 previous studies were assessed to compare 2,195 exercise program participants vs. non-participants. The average age was 77 year olds, predominately of the female gender. Overall results found that there was a 37 percent decrease in injury from falls in the exercises vs. non-exercisers (8).
Where’s the Weight Loss Benefits, Dr. Sarah!?
It can’t be denied, movement is essential for life. You need to move to allow your lymph to detoxify, circulation to be enhanced, and to feel more vital. The type of movement studied for the health benefits above were typically aerobic exercises with some weight resistance.
You may be surprised that weight loss didn’t top the list of my health promotion benefits of exercise. This is because the evidence to support weight loss with exercise can be conflicting due to its effect on appetite (9, 10). Furthermore the type of exercise, duration, quantity, and diet are also significant factors when releasing stubborn pounds.
Optimal metabolism and weight loss in those with weight loss resistance is a complicated subject. But, thanks to the serendipity of knowledge quest, and the timing of an interview I had with a fitness guru, I think I found the solution for every individual.
(Note: Please read about healthism as well to keep everything in perspective.)
1. Bakalar, N. Exercise as Preventive Medicine. New York Times. October 9, 2013.
2. Naci, H, & Ioannidis, J. Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes: metaepidemiological study. BMJ 2013; 347 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5577
3. Dallas, MD. Exercise May Make Life Better for Those With Arthritis. Health Day (consumer.healthday.com). October 26, 2013.
4. Lees C, Hopkins J. Effect of Aerobic Exercise on Cognition, Academic Achievement, and Psychosocial Function in Children: A Systematic Review of Randomized Control Trials. Prev Chronic Dis 2013;10:130010. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd10.130010.
5. Mercola, J. How Exercise Makes Your Brain Grow. mercola.com. October 25, 2013. http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/10/25/exercise-for-brain-health.aspx?
6. Christiane D. Wrann, James P. White, John Salogiannnis, Dina Laznik-Bogoslavski, Jun Wu, Di Ma, Jiandie D. Lin, et al. Exercise Induces Hippocampal BDNF through a PGC-1?/FNDC5 Pathway. Cell Metabolism, 10 October 2013.
7. Gray, K. How Exercise Can Benefit People With Multiple Sclerosis. The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com), October 29, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/29/exercise-multiple-sclerosis_n_4173853.html
8. Seaman, A. Elderly Exercisers Have Fewer Broken Bones After Falls. reuters.com.October 30, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/30/us-elderly-exercisers-idUSBRE99T1FM20131030
9. Science Daily. Exercise Reduces Hunger In Lean Women But Not Obese Women. Science Daily (sciencedaily.com). June 19, 2008. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080617142925.htm
10. Broom, DR, Batterham, RL, King , JA, & Stensel, DJ. Influence of resistance and aerobic exercise on hunger, circulating levels of acylated ghrelin, and peptide YY in healthy males. American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 1 January 2009. 296: R29-R35.DOI: 10.1152/ajpregu.90706.2008