We hear about exercising from the fitness gurus all the time. We need cardio, we need strength training, we need cross-training, and we need this and that. However, they never tell you why. My style of writing is to tell people ‘why’ things happen, or ‘why’ they need to consider doing something. If you know the ‘why’, you can make intelligent decisions with your life.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin briefly – the inactivity side of the coin. We sit in our cars going to work. We sit at our desks during the day. We sit in our cars coming home. We sit on the couch watching television at night. We have a ‘sitting’ history – a habit, so to speak. As such, inactivity rules our lives. What does that do for you?
Humans were made to be active – all day long. Inactivity changes the hormonal balance in our bodies. Physical activity keeps our hormones in balance. You might ask, what happens to your hormones if you sit on the couch and watch television – year in and year out?
Testosterone and Exercise (Pro & Con #1)
Irisin is released after vigorous exercise. It causes cells in your body to be re-programmed to burn energy from your fat cells. Inactivity prevents using fat cells as an energy source. Testosterone is increased during exercise. During inactivity, testosterone levels fall. This is very important if you are over fifty years of age. Many health problems result from low levels of testosterone. It is almost impossible to lose weight with low levels of testosterone.
Peptide YY and Exercise (Pro & Con #2)
Exercise increases Peptide YY which is the primary hormone that tells your brain to stop eating. Inactivity doesn’t turn on that ‘full’ feeling that tells your brain that you are full of food and need to stop eating. As a result, your snack and eat many more calories than is needed for a healthy lifestyle.
Thyroid and Exercise (Pro & Con #3)
Exercise increases your thyroid function. Your thyroid is a gland that controls your metabolism. It causes the release of thyroid-stimulating hormone. Inactivity slows down your metabolism causing you to burn more calories to lose the same amount of weight that a healthy person would use.
Human Growth Hormone and Exercise (Pro & Con #4)
Exercise increases Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH is abundant when you are young. As you age it decreases exponentially. As you approach sixty years of age you have less than ten percent of what you had when you were a teenager. HGH helps build strong bones and muscles as you are growing. As you age, exercise can increase your HGH. Inactivity exacerbates the degradation of HGH more quickly than a person the same age who exercises.
Glucose Absorption and Exercise (Pro & Con #5)
Exercise increases glucose absorption seven to twenty times more than at rest. You might wonder why we have so many people with Type II diabetes today. One reason is inactivity. Glucose is needed to power your cells. Inactivity slows the glucose absorption rate to a point that excess glucose is captured in your bloodstream and weight gain and other significant health issues can develop.
Insulin Levels and Exercise (Pro & Con #6)
Exercise reduces insulin levels. Inactivity keeps insulin levels high. This is not a healthy state to be in all the time. Inactivity is a cause of excess insulin levels in the body. Insulin is a powerful hormone. When you become insulin sensitive or insulin resistant you will have many more health problems – diabetes and heart disease.
Cortisol and Exercise (Pro & Con #7)
Exercise reduces cortisol. Cortisol is the fight or flight hormone that powers you through a stressful situation. Inactivity allows cortisol to remain in your bloodstream longer than it should. Cortisol is a ‘stress’ hormone. Cortisol deposits fat around your gut. There are four times as many fat receptors in that area of your body. Stress is the genesis of over 80% of the reasons why people go to see their doctors. Stress is something that must be dealt with daily, if not, then you will be seeing your doctor more often. Of course, that assumes you survive your first heart attack or stroke.
Dopamine and Exercise (Pro & Con #8)
Exercise increases dopamine. Dopamine is a brain hormone and has several functions in making you operate and feel better. Inactivity leads to lower levels of dopamine. It is easier to feel depressed and anxious. Dopamine is critical for the neurons to function properly. Decrease the amount of dopamine due to inactivity and your brain will start running slower (not actually slower, but it will feel that way to you). Clarity will decrease and cognition is less effective.
Adrenaline and Exercise (Pro & Con #9)
Exercise increases norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and epinephrine (adrenaline). Both are critical to maintaining your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and many other critical body functions. Inactivity leads to lower levels of both hormones. Blood sugar levels are not controlled as effectively. Your heart health is also in jeopardy with inactivity.
Gene Expression and Exercise (Pro & Con #10)
Inactivity also impacts your gene expression. Genes are expressed (turned on or off) by your DNA. Exercise is required to have the right genes expressed (activated or shut down) at the right time. Inactivity causes your genes to be expressed at the wrong times which results in increased inflammation, increased risk of high blood pressure, increased risk of obesity, increased risk of diabetes, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of neurological problems, increased risk of mental health issue and increased risk of autoimmune disease.
Nitric Oxide and Exercise (Pro & Con #11)
Exercise increases nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide is a biological gas that can act as a hormone. It assists in a variety of physiological functions – blood circulation, immune system, endurance levels, alertness, sexual energy, pain relief, muscle development, and intracellular communication. Inactivity does not allow for the formation of nitric oxide. As a result, the support functions needed to live a healthy life are impaired over time.
Mood and Exercise (Pro & Con #12)
Exercise improves mood and lasts a long time. You can exercise in the morning and still enjoy the effects hours later. Exercise lasts – as does inactivity, but inactivity gives no positive gains.
Immune System and Exercise (Pro & Con #13)
Your heart, your brain, and your immune system benefit the most from exercise – no matter your age. Extra oxygen flowing through your body helps your immune system to fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi as they enter your bloodstream.
Your Brain and Exercise (Pro & Con #14)
Extra oxygen aids your brain with clarity, synaptic plasticity (the ability of your brain to function properly to all stimuli), increases cognition, increases glutamates (improves neural activation), and increases your serotonin levels (addresses your mood, sleep, emotions, anxiety, and many other mental issues). Low levels of oxygen can lead to poor quality of sleep and insomnia.
All Types of Exercise Needed (Pro & Con #15)
Exercise is generally thought of in terms of endurance, strength (power), balance and flexibility. There was a time in my life that I used to run a lot – nearly six to eight miles a night. I loved it. I looked forward to it. I had good endurance. I could run for over two hours without any problem.
As I started researching exercise and health, I looked more seriously at the heart muscle and exercise. If I were to run at a pace that kept my pulse rate in the mid 150s (that was my running range – 150-160 beats per second) the heart muscle sees the same level of stress for a long period of time.
Think for a moment about picking up a barbell and doing an arm curl. You stress your bicep muscle as you raise and lower the barbell. What if you were to raise the barbell about half-way up and kept it there – stationary? Is your muscle getting exercise?
I look at the heart muscle the same way. I prefer to run sprints rather than miles and miles. I run one hundred yards with each sprint faster than the previous – about a dozen or so times. I allow my pulse rate to reduce to a certain level before I begin again. My heart muscles have been stressed to the mid-150 level and then allowed to come to rest below 120 beats/minute. Your heart gets a good workout and you are home an hour earlier than normal. There are many other significant health benefits gained from sprinting rather than jogging.
Safety and Exercise (Pro & Con #16)
As with any change in your lifestyle, you much keep safety in mind. No matter what exercise program you begin, you must be smart about it. Start slow and smart. If you need to see your doctor, do it. Safety is critical to exercise. It is easy to injure yourself. Use caution in starting any exercise regimen that you haven’t been trained properly to do.
If you are already exercising, are you including exercises that help all aspects of your physiology? Balance is just as important as strength. Power is critical for those times that you need that instantaneous strength beyond your normal levels. Flexibility is as critical as strength. You need a balanced approach to exercise.
Longevity, Health, and Exercise (Pro & Con #17)
Exercise improves heart muscle strength, helps you to lose weight, lowers your risk of disease, and improves your immunity and overall mental health. The benefits far outweigh your option for inactivity. A little exercise goes a long way.