Get moving! For your health, for your life
By Jan Roberts
I was chatting recently with Bodcare CEO Anthony, and our conversation turned to exercise. Anthony mentioned an 85-year old customer in an exercise equipment store looking to upgrade his bike. This octogenarian was confident that the secret to a long healthy life was to always keep moving. Anthony and I firmly share this same belief, and the scientific evidence is overwhelming. Sadly, a mere 10 percent of people in the Western world engage in regular physical activity. Let’s face it, manual labour is no longer how many of us earn a living, so we must make a conscious effort to exercise regularly to reap the health benefits of getting our bodies moving. But which exercises to choose? Let’s have a look at the benefits of some more common ones …
The amount of muscle in your body is the number one biomarker for vitality and longevity! Yet without concerted effort to build muscle through anaerobic exercise (that means regularly working out against weights or against your body weight), you lose muscle mass at the rate of 1.5kg/decade from your 20s and on, and the rate of that loss accelerates with age. You must fight against losing muscle mass! Muscles are vital to help you maintain balance and move your body around comfortably and safely. And the muscle organ has other less known functions that are just as important as those served by your heart, lung and kidneys. These functions allow for better blood sugar control, improved metabolic rate, increased bone density, reduced risk of
cognitive decline, enhanced methylation (we talk about that next) and much more. The even better news is that you can build muscle in any time in your life, so it’s never too late to get started!
It’s important for your genes!
Methylation is a very important biochemical process, determining whether the expression of a particular gene is beneficial or non-beneficial. Methyl groups (CH3 = a single carbon surrounded by three hydrogen molecules) attach themselves to a gene, and make it harder or easier for that gene to respond to the body’s signals. If this response is working well, the body can heal itself. If the response is not working well, the body can lurch towards deterioration and disease. Diet and supplements have been seen as the primary sources of these beneficial methyl groups. Some good food sources that support methylation are meat, fish, milk, eggs, soybeans, wheat bran, green vegetables and fruit. Supplements that support methylation include the B-complex, especially vitamins B6 and B12, methyl folate and S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)
Research now confirms that exercise also improves methylation in the body. Researchers affiliated with the Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden demonstrated that aerobic and muscle-building exercise changes methylation patterns for the better, for both fat and muscle cells. Juleen Zierath, a professor of integrative physiology at the Karolinska Institute and senior author of the study, says that DNA methylation changes are probably “one of the earliest adaptations to exercise” and drive the bodily changes that follow.
Huff and Puff! Add Intervals! But at Your Own Pace…
In case you’re wondering—anything that increases your heart rate and gets you huffing and puffing is considered aerobic. While we’re on the subject of aerobic exercise, a variation in the form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has challenged previously accepted wisdom. Put simply, HIIT involves a short burst of high intensity activity, followed by a brief recovery period, with the sequence repeated until exhaustion. The length of both activity and recovery sessions and overall time spent can vary greatly and will depend on your fitness level. However, in our experience HIIT does require a serious degree of commitment to be sustained over the long term.
If you’re an exercise beginner on the road to better health, our advice is to start out slowly. Walk a few extra blocks before you catch the bus. Take the stairs instead of the lift. And increase the intensity over weeks, not days. A pedometer that tracks “steps taken” can provide some real incentive, especially if both you and a partner are on a mission to get healthier together. Progress to more adventurous and more vigorous exercise as your muscles (and your mind) become accustomed to the extra activity. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 20-60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity (biking, walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, etc.) three to five times a week, at 60 -90 percent of maximum heart rate, along with two to three days of resistance training. Once you get used to this routine, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
If you’ve read the above but don’t feel inspired to lace up your joggers or hop on your bike, there are other options that are less intense. In the next blog post we will talk about yoga, Pilates, and other less strenuous methods that will also help with your overall health.