Full-body workout: Body, Mind and Soul
Need another reason to exercise? We've dug up a bundle of them.
Of course, there's always that old standby, a sleeker body. It's the reward that
lures legions to the jogging trail, the health club or the aerobics class.
But did you know that exercise might alleviate depression, help keep cancer out
of your colon, increase the number of cells in your brain (or at least in a
mouse's brain) and boost your immune system?
People have always believed that exercise is good for them, says Dr. John
O'Kane, University of Washington sports-medicine expert and lead physician to
the UW's athletic teams. What the latest research is doing is showing just how
good for us it is.
Health experts also say you don't have to run marathons or hit the gym for
endless hours to gain significant benefits. Probably the best-known benefit is
heart health, and for that, a program of regular, moderate exercise will do just
fine, O'Kane said.
"If you can just get yourself to start walking 30 minutes a day, that's a
good start," he said.
"You do get benefits from more vigorous exercise," O'Kane added. You burn
more calories and gain endurance, for instance. And one study suggested that
women who exercised vigorously had lower rates of prostate cancer.
Exercise does its best work when teamed with healthy eating. But studies now
show exercise has its own beneficial impact, even when you're not also following
an ideal diet, he said.
The same is true with weight loss. A study at the Cooper Institute for
Aerobics Research in Dallas showed that even when individuals remained obese,
exercise was linked to fewer heart attacks.
Exercise gets points today not only for health maintenance but for recovery.
Jack Berryman, a UW medical historian, says that "for thousands of years we
realized that exercise was healthy." Yet until the 1950s, complete bed rest was
prescribed for many conditions, including heart-attack recovery.
That changed, he said, when President Dwight Eisenhower had a heart a attack
while in office. Well-known cardiologist Dr. Paul Dudley White soon had him up
walking and playing golf.
"That was the beginning of the important movement of cardiac rehabilitation"
employing controlled exercise, Berryman said. Today, exercise is part of the
recovery program for many conditions.
Here's some of the latest research on health and exercise:
Breast cancer: Regular physical activity may lower risk. Of about two
dozen studies on breast cancer and exercise, about two-thirds have found reduced
risk of up to 30-40 percent with exercise, says Dr. Anne McTiernan, of the Fred
Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Possible reason: Exercise may reduce
production of estrogen (a possible cancer promoter) by the ovaries and by fat
Exercise may also boost the immune system, possibly helping fight cancer.
McTiernan and others are researching exercise's impact on both the immune system
and on estrogen levels in women.
Colon cancer: Exercise appears to reduce risk by up to 50 percent, based
on about three dozen observational studies around the world, says McTiernan. She
and others will try to learn more about the protective mechanism in a new study.
They'll take biopsies from the colon and rectum of exercising and non-exercising
participants at the start and finish of the study to observe how cells are
growing, dividing and dying. They'll also check the balance of "good" and "bad"
prostaglandins, body chemicals thought to be involved in colon cancer.
Mental sharpness: Exercise may help preserve it as you age. A recent
study found that among women 65 and older, the least amount of cognitive decline
over eight years occurred in those who exercised the most (walking 18 miles per
week), while decline was greatest in those who exercised the least (walking half
a mile per week). Decline decreased with each added mile. Researchers at the
University of California, San Francisco, and others studied 5,925 women 65 and
older without cognitive impairment or physical limitations.
Brain cells: Physical activity may increase their numbers. In one study,
researchers found that adult mice doubled their number of new cells in the
hippocampus — a brain area involved in memory and learning — when they had
access to running wheels. It's not yet known whether the same thing happens with
Depression: Studies suggest exercise reduces symptoms, possibly by
releasing mood-altering brain chemicals, such as endorphins.
The rest of the body
Diabetes: Many studies show regular physical activity helps prevent or
control diabetes. Exercise works on diabetes in two ways: By burning energy in
the form of blood sugar and by reducing body fat (fat contributes to Type 2
diabetes by impairing the body's ability to process insulin).
Bones: Many studies indicate that weight-bearing exercise such as walking
and weight-training helps prevent the porous, fracture-prone bones of
Regular exercise, including strength training, may also help older people avoid
falling and breaking their bones. In one study, older women assigned to a
home-based strength-and-balance exercise program had fewer falls than women who
In another study, researchers at Oregon State University and the University of
Utah asked women ages 50 to 75 to wear weighted vests while performing
lower-body strength and power exercises. Results after nine months: Improved
lower-body muscle strength and balance — especially balance to the side. "This
has been very exciting for us to find, because falling to the side raises the
risk of breaking a hip 20 times over falling forward," said Christine Snow, the
Arthritis: Both aerobic exercise and strength training, in moderation,
can reduce joint swelling and pain and extend mobility.
The heart: Perhaps the best-known effect of regular exercise is its
benefit to the heart. Many studies indicate lower heart-disease risk with
regular exercise, which boosts oxygen supply. Exercise also helps bring down
high blood pressure, reducing risk of stroke.
And that's not all: Studies also point to the power of exercise to help
prevent or control sleep disorders, gallstones, diverticular disease (an
intestinal disorder) and more.
Dated 05 September 2012