Marcy Houle and Dr. Eckstrom, co-authors of The Gift of Caring , write that there is a prescription that can help protect us from heart attacks, reduce blood pressure, reign in the diabetes epidemic, curtail obesity, cancer, strokes, insomnia, depression, as well as increase our brain capacity. And there are no side effects with this prescription. What is it? It’s called EXERCISE. As researchers have reported in peer reviewed journals, “From dementia and diabetes to high blood pressure - no pill protects us against ill health like exercise.” Even better, it’s free!
Scientists are recognizing that there is probably not a single organ in the body that is unaffected by exercise. It’s shown to cut your risk of breast cancer in half and lower your risk of bower cancer by 60%. Research shows several key factors that come about from being active. We know that being overweight is a known risk factor in many forms of cancer. Exercise helps keep body weight at a safe level and thereby can lower your risk of developing cancer. Activity also helps clear blood vessels, so they can work as they are meant to, by helping to destroy dangerous fats before they clog up the system. Interestingly, less fat deposits in the body also help reduce the level of exposure to potentially harmful hormones and inflammatory particles that adhere to them. Exercise impacts that part of our brain called the hippocampus, That region is the part that is crucial for memory. Exercise can improve our memory by increasing its capacity. And who doesn’t want more brain capacity? Exercise can stimulate new neuron development in the hippocampus. As the brain ages, memory function is known to decrease. Exercise, however, can hold back decline by increasing the volume of your hippocampus. Scientists have determined that this increase can make up for approximately two years of normal age-related decrease. Research is also finding clues to the protective nature of exercise. One fascinating function recently discovered is that exercise plays a vital role in acting in the capacity of - who would have thought? -- a garbage collector! DNA is a material present in nearly all living organisms. It is the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the “genetic code” stored in our cells. It determines everything from how we are built to how we are maintained. DNA replicates; that’s why we keep on living! But sometimes, some of our body’s DNA can become mutated or damaged. We know now that some of these problematic cells can become cancer promoters. New research at the University of Texas Medical Center suggests that exercise can help eliminate some of these unwanted bystanders. Exercise “turns on” cells that hunger after additional energy! These “garbage collectors” don’t recycle; they burn up potentially dangerous, loitering debris. Some of that rubble we now think might be precursors -- not only to certain cancers -- but also to neurodegeneration and dementias.
Being active excites mechanisms that work to reduce surplus glucose (extra sugar) in our muscle and fat cells. This can help prevent diabetes. Further, doctors have found that it can even help reverse certain forms of the chronic and sometimes devastating disease. Exercise also aids in enlarging small blood vessels. These dilated, healthy, little circulatory systems can be life-saving conduits in the face of an impending heart attack or stroke. Exercise is known to reduce pain from arthritis something most of us suffer from as we age. It also can increase our bone density, which is very important to combat osteoporosis and broken bones if we should fall. Plus, research shows it helps us sleep better - without the use of sleeping pills, which can be very dangerous for older persons. All of these things that exercise can do for us are powerhouses in terms of quality of life in aging.
Exercise takes a little work on our part. Everyone is looking for a quick fix. But the thing is, this “prescription” - even if it requires some effort - can give us, better than any other remedy, years of good living when we’re older! The benefits of being active can nourish and protect all of us for a lifetime.