Growing up my family did not “do” exercise.  We never went on walks, mountain climbed or rode bikes (we lived on a steep hill and I was fearful to try).  The only exercise I ever did as a child saved me.  My father put a pool in our backyard.  I took my little plump self everyday and “played” in that pool, not knowing I was exercising!  When my sister and I returned to school that fall, no one recognized us!  I should have known then what a valuable asset exercise was!

A National Cancer Institute/Harvard study concluded even a little exercise reduced early mortality by 20% and found the suggested 150 minutes a week (From 2015 Journal of American Medicine) resulted in a 31% reduction in the chance of early death over a 14-year period.   In another study, Australian researchers looked at exercise intensity, finding that those who ramped up the intensity on at least a third of their activities significantly decreased the chance of premature death.  It does appear as though the most effective, potent way that we can improve quality of life and duration of life is exercise.

An interesting fact ~ even Hippocrates wrote “Eating alone will not keep a man well.  He must also take exercise.”  Doctors were the vanguards of physical education until the early 1900’s.  Modern surgery and pharmaceuticals suddenly became the forefront with medicine shifting its focus from the prevention of disease to its treatment, which in turn de-emphasized exercise.  In a 1905 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association it was noted that suddenly we were losing the sight of the health benefits of exercise.  Americans became “spectators” in the campus stadiums and physical activity became the privilege of elite athletes. (The New Science of Exercise by Mandy Oaklander, Time Magazine, Sept. 12, 2016).

When I was in school we always had a P.E. program as well as recess throughout the day.  Many U.S. schools today have seen these same classes cut from the curriculum; in fact almost half of high school students do not even have a weekly PE class and only 15% of elementary schools require PE at least 3 days a week for the school year.  With this lack of activity has come a rise in obesity rates every year since 1999.

A fascinating study, Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans,  about the benefits of exercise,  is being launched by National Institute of Health,  in the hopes to reverse this trend…..It involves 3,000 sedentary people, ranging in age from children to the elderly.  They will donate blood, fat and muscle before and after they exercise.   These samples will be examined for clues to how the body changes with physical activity.  There will also be a control group that does not exercise that will be tracked as well for comparison.  In the end, the researchers think they will actually be able to identify every single molecule in the body that is tweaked or turned on by exercise.  And those results will hopefully be the evidence they need to show that exercise needs to be treated as a “miracle drug” that it is and patients will actually have a prescription for exercise as they leave the doctor’s office.

Here are some interesting facts I learned about just some of the benefits of exercise:

  1.  Exercise may protect telomeres., the tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes.  This appears to slow the aging of cells.  For more information about telomeres, read my blog post here.
  2. Our bodies are better able to burn fat for energy instead of carbs, thus causing fat cells to shrink
  3. Bone density increases with repeated weight-bearing contractions which make muscles grow and puts pressure on the bones.
  4. Want to have a better mood and even lessen pain?  Increased blood flow to the brain creates new blood vessels and triggers the release of chemicals to do just that.
  5. Wounds can heal faster when exercising as it revs up blood flow to the skin, delivering nutrients to the epidermis.
  6. Tired often?  By moving quickly, it makes the heart pump more blood to the body’s tissues, including the muscles and that extra oxygen helps our muscles better withstand fatigue.

Ready to hit the gym?  Even doing things like taking the stairs, singing, laughing, etc. can burn 100 calories!  Gardening, housework and standing more and sitting less can make a difference.  Interested in a drink during exercise clinically proven to hydrate better than water?  It has more electrolytes and provides more energy than the leading hydration drink.  Go here to learn more and meanwhile become a part of the 30% who move a lot during the day, reducing their risk of early death….regardless of how much they exercise!



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