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The power of physical activity for prevention and management of chronic diseases

Created by Laura Scott, M.A. |

Physical activity is wonderful and I personify it as encompassing magical, life-changing potential. I intentionally use the word "magic" because you gain both immediate and long-term health protection from your very own body moving, but it’s not magic at all! The health outcomes of physical activity are verifiable, scientifically supported, and is a health strategy to be taken seriously.

Physical activity is wonderful and I personify it as encompassing magical, life-changing potential. I intentionally use the word ‘magic’ because you gain both immediate and long-term health protection from your very own body moving, but it’s not magic at all! The health outcomes of physical activity are verifiable, scientifically supported, and is a health strategy to be taken seriously.

 

12 exceptional exercise benefits:

  1. Creates neurobiological responses providing immediate benefits to mood, emotion, and stress levels; helps reduce and manage anxiety and depression symptoms.
  2. Reduces low-grade inflammation by releasing anti-inflammatory proteins.
  3. Strengthens heart health and decreases blood pressure.
  4. Maintains and strengthens muscles, bone density, and joint health.
  5. Reduces blood sugar levels.
  6. Increases functional health.
  7. Reduces risk of injury, supports fall prevention for older persons.
  8. Supports cognitive function such as attention and memory.
  9. Helps control body weight and blood sugar, lowers body fat.
  10. Enhances sleep quality.
  11. Gives you more energy via increased blood flow to the body which delivers oxygen and nutrients.
  12. Helps reduce the severity of certain pain, e.g. back pain and sciatica. 

 

In an effort to prevent chronic disease, adopting an active lifestyle is paramount. Daily physical activity needs to be a priority, let's go over encouraging evidence on why this is the case. 

Physical activity and exercise are important public health tools for chronic disease prevention. Being active has a host of benefits; it increases quality of life and functional ability, reduces health care costs, and can increase life expectancy. Incorporating exercise into your daily life requires little personal resources, and is highly rewarding for mental and physical health. 

The benefits of living a physically active lifestyle are potentially lifesaving for persons at risk for developing some non-communicable diseases (NCD). People around the world are living longer lives, however, NCDs are rising and subsequently increasing the burden on healthcare systems and reducing the quality of life for persons with NCDs. 

According to the European Commission (2020) "(NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, mental disorders, neurological disorders, or cancer are responsible for 80% of the disease burden in the EU countries and the leading causes of avoidable premature deaths".

 

Preventing and managing type 2 diabetes mellitus- 

The incidents of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes continue to climb worldwide, and the disease can lead to further health complications including heart disease and nerve damage.

The good news is exercise provides a mechanism to manage excess blood sugar levels. Moderate to vigorous exercise enables glucose extraction from muscles to be expended as energy through exercise-stimulated glucose uptake. The major take-away: the more muscle you have, the more equipped your body is to manage blood glucose. Exercise is a excellent, efficient pathway for glucose metabolism which also reduces fasted blood sugar levels. 

 

Tackling obesity and its negative health effects

In Germany, more than half the population is overweight and over one quarter is obese, and for children it is 15%. Being overweight and obese results in accumulating large amounts of excess adipose tissue (body fat), which causes low-grade chronic inflammation, places unnecessary weight on your joints and overtime increases the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, contributes to insulin resistance, and increases the risk of certain cancers.

Obesity puts people at risk for various other illnesses, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Exercise is a useful tool in the treatment protocols of obesity.  

 

Heart disease prevention and treatment

Physical activity can help prevent the development of cardiovascular disease which can lead to deadly heart attacks and strokes. Cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, cycling, aerobics, HIT) and resistance training helps reduce blood pressure, increase blood circulation, increase high-density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol) which is an important mechanism for removing excess cholesterol, and decrease fat surrounding the heart. 

 

Aiding in cancer prevention measures

There may be a correlation between being physically active and reducing the risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast and colon. Exercise creates a cascade of protective health properties, some of which help protect cells from cancer cell proliferation such as: producing anti-inflammatory effects, reducing blood sugar levels, and supporting robust immune responses in the body.

One potential mechanism of cancer prevention has been identified during exercise. Researchers at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg found that during exercise, our muscles produce myokines which offer “anti-tumour mechanisms” (FAU, 2020). The 12-week study included participants with advanced prostate and intestinal cancer. 

 

Let’s get up and moving

People are sitting far too long each day, and there are negative health consequences to sitting for prolonged periods, such as raised blood sugar levels, tight hip flexors, aggravated sore backs, worsening sciatica symptoms, contributing to feelings of low energy, neck and shoulder strain, muscle deconditioning due to the adaptation of your muscles not being “on”, and more.

Sitting continuously is counterproductive to health because our bodies are built to be up and active. Watch this 5-minute TED-Ed video “Why sitting is bad for you”.

 

Need more motivation to get up and moving?

Watch our favourite TED talk on exercise: Wendy Suzuki: The brain-changing benefits of exercise.

Got 5 minutes? Energize your body with this 5-minute warm-up from fitness trainer Caroline Girvan. 

References


Sport-induced myokines fight cancer cells ' Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. (2020, September 15). Retrieved January 27, 2022, from https://www.fau.eu/2020/09/15/news/research/sport-induced-myokines-fight-cancer-cells/

Non-communicable diseases Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2022, from https://ec.europa.eu/health/non-communicable-diseases/overview_en

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