The Medicine of Movement

Most people are aware of the basic recipe for a healthy life. The key ingredients include:

Many experts tout that diet and exercise are perhaps the two most important components for a healthy body, each dueling for first place. This is because along with diet, exercise has been the lead story of many scientific journals in its ability to modulate wellness outcomes. For example, just recently, cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) was linked to a decrease risk of certain cancers in a prospective, observational cohort study of 13949 mid-life men. Specifically, the authors concluded, “There is an inverse association between midlife CRF and incident lung and colorectal cancer but not prostate cancer. High midlife CRF is associated with lower risk of cause-specific mortality in those diagnosed as having cancer at Medicare age.” (1)

Another recent prospective cohort study spanning the years of 2006-2014 included 204,542 adults (aged 45-75 years). The study sought to examine the relationship between total moderate to vigorous activity (MVPA) and all-cause mortality. The authors found that the proportion of MVPA revealed an inverse dose-relationship to all-cause mortality. Furthermore, “These associations were consistent in men and women, across categories of body mass index and volume of MVPA, and in those with and without existing cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus.” (2)

Finally, a review of six population-based prospective cohort studies of 661,137 men and women in the United States and Europe also found a relationship between levels of activity and risk of mortality. Specifically, compared with individuals reporting no leisure time physical activity, there was a 20% lower mortality risk in those performing less than 7.5 metabolic-equivalent hours per week, 31% lower risk in those performing 1 to 2 times the recommended minimum, and a 37% lower risk at 2 to 3 times the minimum. The upper threshold for mortality benefit occurred at 3 to 5 times the physical activity recommendation. (3)

These results demonstrate the power of movement on our body in not just biochemical pathways, but in relevant association-based outcome studies.

 Playing a tough basketball game.

The Exercise-Boosting Power of Peppermint

One thing most essential oil lovers often experience is the curious, doubtful glances and sniffing noises of peers when they take out their beloved bottles in public. Recently, I was speaking to one of my colleagues on the benefits of peppermint oil for exercise. Literally, an hour later, I got a text from him on a recent study that showed an immediate effect of peppermint oil on athletic performance.

The study included 30 healthy male university students randomly divided into an experimental group of oral administration of peppermint oil (50 ul) and a control group. The study aimed to determine if ingestion of peppermint oil modulated physiological parameters and exercise performance after 5 minutes and 1 hour. The authors measured maximum isometric grip force, vertical and long jumps, spirometric parameters, visual and audio reaction times, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathe rate. The results revealed significant improvement in all of the variables following peppermint essential oil consumption. Specifically, the authors report:

Experimental group compared with control group showed an incremental and a significant increase in the grip force (36.1%), standing vertical jump (7.0%), and standing long jump (6.4%). Data obtained from the experimental group after five minutes exhibited a significant increase in the forced vital capacity in first second (FVC1)(35.1%), peak inspiratory flow rate (PIF) (66.4%), and peak expiratory flow rate (PEF) (65.1%), whereas after one hour, only PIF shown a significant increase as compare with the baseline and control group. At both times, visual and audio reaction times were significantly decreased. Physiological parameters were also significantly improved after five minutes. A considerable enhancement in the grip force, spirometry, and other parameters were the important findings of this study.

The researchers explained that the improvements in the spirometric measurements (FVC1, PEF, and PIF) could relate to the effects of peppermint on bronchial smooth muscle. (4)

Another study examined the response of 12 male students after 10 days of supplementation with peppermint oil (.05ml) in water. The trial supported the effectiveness of peppermint essential oil on the exercise performance, gas analysis, spirometry parameters, blood pressure, and respiratory rate in the young male students. The authors also concluded that, “Relaxation of bronchial smooth muscles, increase in the ventilation and brain oxygen concentration, and decrease in the blood lactate level are the most plausible explanations.” (Note: 1 ounce is 2 TBSP, 1 ounce is 30 ml)

Finally, a third study in 2001 demonstrated that the impact of peppermint odor during exercise in 40 adults improved running speed, hand-grip strength, and number of push-ups verses the non-odor exposed control subjects. (5)

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What Else Can Peppermint Do?

If I was on a stranded island and only allowed one oil, I think I’d bring peppermint. This is because it has so many uses that range from (conventionally recognized) digestive support, inhibiting unwanted microbes, respiratory support, brain support, and exercise enhancement. I literally don’t go anywhere without it.

I put a drop of it in my water before a run, sniff it during the sleepy 3pm slump time and when reading intense studies that require concentration, and rub it on my belly after meals to enhance digestion. If I’m caught at a restaurant with a dish that had a little more garlic or onion than expected, BAM! It’s peppermint to the rescue, again.


Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been assessed for quality, purity, and standardization of constituents.

Warning: There is no quality control in the United States for essential oils and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only contain 5% of the actual oil! The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin and body.

These studies are not specific for one essential oil brand, please view the reference for the source.

This information is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness.



(1) Lakoski SG, Willis BL, Barlow CE, Leonard D, Gao A, Radford N, Farrel SW. Midlife Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Incident Cancer, and Survival After Cancer in MenThe Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. JAMA Oncology. March 26, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.0226

(2) Gebel K, Ding D, Chey T, Stamatakis E, Brown WJ, Bauman AE. Effect of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity on All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged and Older Australians. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Apr 6. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0541. [Epub ahead of print]

(3) Arem H1, Moore SC1, Patel A2, Hartge P1, Berrington de Gonzalez A1, et al. Leisure Time Physical Activity and Mortality: A Detailed Pooled Analysis of the Dose-Response Relationship. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Apr 6. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0533. [Epub ahead of print]

(4) Meamarbashi A. Instant effects of peppermint essential oil on the physiological parameters and exercise performance. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 2014;4(1):72-78.

(5) Meamarbashi A, Rajabi A. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013, 10:15  doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-15

(6) B Raudenbush, N Corley, W Eppich. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. 2001. 23: 156-160.

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