Health Digest #2: EXERCISE

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Source: Excerpted from Nutrition Action Magazine; Dec. 2009. This is one of my favorite sources for nutritional information. The magazine is slim enough to read in one setting, but packed with information.  It is published by The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

Note: Since this is a fairly long digest of a much longer article, I am featuring it by itself.

Seven Facts About Exercise

1.   Exercise can curb your risk of cancer. (Brisk walking is correlated with reduced colon cancer, but more vigorous exercise is recommended for breast cancer protection.)

2.   Exercise creates new brain cells. In lab animals, it increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates the growth of new brain cells, as well as new synapses (connections) between the cells, and new capillaries to distribute the blood and its nutrients.

3.   Exercise boots insulin sensitivity. As we age or when we are overweight, our bodies tend not respond less to insulin’s role of allowing sugar to enter our body’s cells to be used as food or stored as needed.  Thus, insulin resistance may result and this is linked to risks of heart disease and type II diabetes, if blood sugar levels keep rising.

4.   Creatine helps build muscle. Creatine is a compound that makes energy available to muscles during times of high demand, such as weight training. Since vegetarians don’t get as much creatine from their foods, it seems to work better for them, while meat eaters may not notice as much impact on their muscles from creatine.

5.   Sitting Can Kill You. Mortality rates are higher among people who sit for the majority of the day. To counteract this, exercise cannot be occasional, but needs to be a regular part of their lifestyle. If you have a sedentary job, stand up often to get the blood flowing and increase activity of your muscles in your lower limbs.

6.   You’re never too old to build muscle. Women may not increase their muscle mass as much as men, but their muscle quality improves, that is, the amount of force they can exert per unit of muscle. The article recommends building muscle through weight training, three times per week.

7.   Exercise prevents visceral fat gain. This is the fat that accumulates around the organs deep inside the belly and is linked to insulin resistance, heart disease, and diabetes. (Visceral fat is not the same as subcutaneous fat, which lies closer to the skin and is not harmful.)

The article lists moderate-intensity exercise as ones that noticeable increase your heart rate and breathing rate and may make you sweat. (You can still talk but not sing.) They include: ballroom or line dancing, biking on level ground, doubles tennis, canoeing, ball throwing sports, brisk walking and water aerobics. Vigorous exercise, that is exercise that is noticeably faster and gets you sweating and makes talking difficult includes: aerobic or fast dancing (ex. Zhumba), hiking uphill, fast biking, jogging, jumping rope, martial arts, race walking, running, singles tennis, running sports (ex. soccer), swimming fast or swimming laps.

Note: In the article, the American Cancer Society recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity, although 45-60 is preferable. The recommendation is that exercises be done at least 5 times per week.