The importance of keeping physically active!
One too many times I’ve heard, both in my professional and personal life, the age-old story “I used to be stronger but now I’m getting old and frail’ and how “being weak is just a part of getting old”. If you are a person who frequently uses this statement, I am here to tell you, you’re wrong! You are never too old to start, and getting old doesn’t have to mean becoming weak.
Back in 2011, this image went viral; it was proof that even at the age of 70, an individual with an active lifestyle maintained a significant amount of muscle mass and function.
This image was taken from a 2011 study conducted by Wroblewski et al. which studied the relationship of muscle preservation in masters athletes. This study found that simple lifestyle changes can preserve the majority of muscle mass and muscle function. The authors concluded that remaining physically active should be encouraged throughout an individual’s life.
Last year a truly great commercial by Doc Morris circled the web, of a grandfather who trained with a kettlebell so he can pick up his granddaughter with ease. A work of art; truly capturing why it is so important to stay fit and healthy, if not for yourself then for those you love. Just one of many reasons why continued physical activity is so important, but yes there is more.
As Osteopaths – in the field of physical therapy – we deal with chronic pain regularly. It’s complicated, frustrating and seemingly persistent – and YES! Exercise can help!
In fact, data has shown that the therapeutic benefits of exercise even occur in the absence of changes to strength, endurance and flexibility. Which vaguely answers the question “but what exercise is best for chronic pain?”, and the answer is – whatever works for you, makes you happy, and encourages you to get up and get moving. Strenuous hard training regiments, weight training and long-distance running aren’t the only options.Even lighter exercise such as regular walking may have a positive effect on chronic pain.
When considering the effects on chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, ect. there is well established evidence that correlates Body mass Index (BMI) with increased risk of chronic diseases. However independent of BMI, a sedentary lifestyle also correlates with these diseases. A review by Barnes AS, 2012 stated that though BMI has a strong correlation, without reducing it and simply increasing physical activity can help reduce the risk of chronic illness. In fact, regular activity is so potent in its effects that 75 minutes a week of light physical activity could reduce cardiovascular risk by as much as 14%. That’s less than 15 minutes a day!
Some other effects exercise may have include aiding your immune system. While we sit here “reminiscing” about covid-19, most people were/are running around looking for ways to strengthen their immune system, while all along “running” may have been the answer.. No, this blog isn’t about how better we could have tackled the infamous virus, just about illnesses in general. Consistent exercise has shown to induce physiological changes at a cellular level. A review by Sallami M et al. 2018 concluded that many studies showed the positive effect of exercise on the immune system such as elevation in T-cell proliferative capacity, increased neutrophil function, and NK cell cytotoxic activity. T-Cells, neutrophils and NK cells are cells in our bodies that function to fight against the nasties we may contract during our daily lives – hence exercise may be essential in building stronger immune systems.
Let’s bring it to the oldest of enemies: Brains vs Brawn (Who watched survivor 2021?).Which would you prefer to be – the brains or the brawn? Did you know that some studies have shown that exercise may help increase cognitive function and academic performance in adults and adolescents?
To the students reading this, the constant battle between rest and study is endless. But taking periodic breaks and doing some physical activity may be beneficial to your ability to retain and regurgitate the information that you are trying to learn. A systematic review by Li JW et al.3 reviewed 10 studies, and drew the conclusion that exercise – both new and existing – may help increase both cognitive function and academic performance. All of the papers reviewed reported a significant effect of acute or chronic exercise in improving some aspect of cognitive function and academic performance, however more evidence is required. In short, though we can not be certain that exercise will help your brain capacity, the risk of exercise is heavily outweighed by the rewards. Have a break… lift some weights.
You think that would be all, right? Well you’re wrong, I haven’t finished yet. Finally, the real pandemic of this world – mental health. Now before I say that physical activity can help individuals facing stress, anxiety and depression, these can be serious conditions and it is important to seek professional help by registered mental health practitioners. But considering lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity may help you get over life’s many speed humps. Mikkelsen K et al. produced a review of articles that provided evidence to suggest that exercise can help alleviate stress, anxiety and depression through psychological and physiological levels.
Natural endorphins, endogenous opioids and reduction in inflammatory markers – sounds like a great cocktail.
So what is the take-home message? It doesn’t matter what it is, how strenuous or how light the exercise, get out there and get active. There is minimal risk but maximal reward, you have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
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