Movement As Medicine

'Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being while movement and methodical physical exercise saves and preserves it'

Staying physically fit and exercising is good for you- everyone knows this. But did you know that exercise has been proven by research to prevent certain diseases, slow down their progression, reduce their severity or even avoid their occurrence?

So, what exactly does exercise do to the body?

  1. The Brain and the Nervous System:

Exercise causes the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and this helps to improve long term memory and form strong connections in the brain. It also reduces damage to the cells by free radicals, and this slows down the deterioration of brain function that is seen as we age. 

Exercise and movement boost the production of serotonin, one of the 'feel-good' hormones, as well as makes receptors more sensitive to it. This improves mood and has been shown to reduce the risk of anxiety and depression. In short, people who are physically active are less likely to feel depressed.

 Movement disorders like Parkinson's disease that are caused by dopamine deficiency in a certain area of the brain also benefit from exercise; it releases factors that make it easier for dopamine to be transmitted and ensure that dopamine-using neurons survive.
Exercise also regulates the circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles of the body, resulting in better quality of sleep. Since poor sleep is a contributor to many conditions, especially those that affect mental health and memory, exercising can slow down brain degeneration.

2.Appetite, Hunger and Weight :
Exercise improves the signaling of leptin, a hormone that tells your brain that you have had enough to eat. Exercise, over a period of time, makes you more sensitive to leptin, making sure you develop healthy eating habits and do not load your plate with more than you need. Leptin also makes muscle cells better able to burn fatty acids and utilize energy efficiently.


3.Bones and Tendons: 

Weight bearing exercises that stress the bones actually increase calcium deposition and encourage formation of stronger, healthier bone that is less likely to fracture. Since bone density begins to drop at the rate of 1% after the age of 40, a well rounded strength training program that targets the hips, wrists, spine, ribs and arms will go a long way in preventing fractures later in life.
Carefully calibrated graded exercises that apply force to healing collagen-containing tissues like tendons and ligaments after a sprain, can cause the new collagen fibres to be laid down in a better pattern that results in tougher tissues.

4.Heart and Blood Vessels: 

Cardiovascular health is one of the most discussed topics in exercise, and not for no reason- exercise can be as effective as medication in certain heart conditions,and it plays a major role in preventing, minimising the severity of and healing from heart conditions and surgeries.
It Makes Your Heart Stronger: Literally. Over a long period, exercise strengthens the heart, which is basically a muscle. This enables it to pump more blood, more efficiently to all your organs.
It Helps You Lose Weight: Obesity is a factor in causing heart disease, and exercise along with a balanced diet helps reduce the amount of adipose (fat) tissue. It can also prevent the formation of fatty deposits inside blood vessels, which are a cause of heart attacks and strokes.
Can Reduce The Work Of the Heart: Exercise trains the muscles to extract oxygen efficiently from the circulating blood, which means that over time they will be able to function better without increasing the demand placed on the heart.
Lower Blood Pressure: This is an added benefit, since high blood pressure is associated with damage to other organs like the brain, kidneys, eyes.
Less Stress: Programs like yoga and tai-chi significantly calm you down and lower levels of stress hormones in the blood, leading to lower blood pressure, a less overworked circulatory system, and better overall health.


5 Diabetes:
Exercise reduces insulin sensitivity in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics, which means that less insulin is required to make glucose enter the cells, therefore lowering blood glucose levels.
Resistance exercise helps reduce fat mass while building lean muscle mass, and increases the capacity of the muscles to burn glucose, lowering blood sugar levels.
Lowered blood sugar levels mean that less glycosylated hemoglobin (HBA1C) is formed. This is what leads to nerve damage in diabetes, so regular exercise can slow down peripheral neuropathy.
For diabetics, especially Type 1, who are worried about dizziness and fainting during exercise sessions, performing resistance exercise (strength training) before aerobic exercise actually causes less hypoglycemia. A physiotherapist can help you come up with an exercise program that suits your needs and ability.
Balance and flexibility exercise can help prevent the falls and injuries that are common in diabetics, as a result of nerve damage. Working on these abilities early on makes sure you stay fit as you age.

6 Skin: 

For those who need more incentive,exercise also affects the way you look.
Sweating causes pores to expel trapped sebum and debris, effectively clearing them and reducing acne and blackheads.
Exercise regulates the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the blood, resulting in better, more restorative sleep, which in turn leaves skin looking healthy and refreshed.
Exercise increases the amount of blood flowing to the extremities, opening up small vessels in the skin. Better nourishment means rejuvenated skin, and research has shown that fibroblasts ( the cells that lay down collagen, which is what keeps skin looking plump and young) work more efficiently in these conditions.

7 Posture:
Regular training benefits postural muscles (the muscles in the abdomen, back and shoulders that help keep you upright), and over time you will be able to hold ideal posture with less effort. This can actually appear to lengthen your spine (it was hunched earlier) and can make you look taller.
Another benefit of having good posture is that it offloads the spine; less weight is taken by the vertebrae and more is taken on by the muscles. This makes it less likely you will develop issues like slipped discs, spondylosis, or back pain.


This was just a brief list of the benefits of exercise; there are many, many more. It is a potent tool not just against disease, but to prevent it. Get in touch with an expert at Healyos today to get started.