Movement and Exercise – Radioshow Transcript 5/10/24

Movement and Exercise – Radioshow Transcript 5/10/24

Andrew Chuma No Comment
General Wellness

Hello everyone,

Dr. Chuma here and today I wanted to talk about another lifestyle habit which significantly improves health and longevity and that is movement and exercise.

The human race evolved moving constantly. The concept of sitting at a desk all day staring at a screen, sitting in meetings, watching TV or traveling in vehicles is a very modern one and has wreaked havoc on our health. Sitting is considered the new smoking.

I mentioned in an earlier segment about how most Americans, including children, spend less than 7 minutes a day outside. We can all remember when we were kids, we would spend hours playing outdoors, riding our bikes, playing in the yard and constantly moving. Those days seem to be gone and even schools have eliminated gym requirements and have shortened recess playtime.

When you look at the Blue Zones, places in the world where people live long and healthy lives, one of the universal attributes is that they are either constantly moving, or they exercise regularly. 

Movement and exercise don’t just improve your heart health and help you lose weight. They also:

  • Improve sleep quality and reduce snoring
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve mood and they even
  • Raise the number of cancer fighting cells in your blood

Here are just a few scientific points.

When you exercise, your brain produces a compound known as Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. This compound grows new and improves established neuronal connections in the brain. It also stimulates production of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is responsible for memory consolidation, directly reversing age-related memory loss and early dementia.

Exercise has the immediate effect of lowering blood pressure and reducing the stress hormone cortisol. At the same time, it increases levels of serotonin, the “happy” neurotransmitter in the brain and the gut.

It stresses the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones and is far superior to the complication-ridden medications often prescribed for osteoporosis. If you’re on one, educate yourself and read the side effects and stop them immediately! I’m amazed at how often I have conversations with women taking drugs like Fosamax who are completely unaware of their risks. Ironically, over time, they actually increase fracture risk!

15-20 minutes of walking after a meal has a significant impact on reducing blood sugar spikes. This is one of the useful strategies to deal with blood sugar, and MOST Americans have blood sugar issues whether they know it or not. 

Exercise lengthens telomeres, the caps on the ends of our chromosomes which are responsible for aging. The more you exercise, the greater the impact on your telomeres. 

But you don’t have to run a marathon or become a bodybuilder to benefit from exercise. Even a little bit of movement has benefits, and quickly. In fact, the less active you are, the more benefit you get from starting an exercise regimen. The more you exercise, the more the benefit, but only up to a point. 

There can be too much exercise. Just looking at runners, overall, regular runners are dramatically healthier than those who don’t exercise, however, regular marathoners do a little worse than those who regularly run half marathoners, who do a little worse than those who regularly run 10ks. The benefits of aerobic exercise plateau at about 45 minutes.

There are 2 traditional forms of exercise. Aerobic, or “cardio”, which exercises your cardiovascular system. This includes things like brisk walking, running, biking, stair stepping and swimming. And then there are resistance type exercises, which place a load on your body. Although weight lifting has traditionally been the go to resistance exercise, anything which places a load on your joints, bones ligaments and tendons creates resistance. Dancing, body weight movements, and even gentler movements like yoga are examples.

Both types are important to incorporate into your regimen. I hate lifting weights but do it because I know it’s good for me. I like to run because it stresses both my cardiovascular system and puts some strain and impact on my bones and muscles. We need all kinds of exercise to thrive. From an aerobic standpoint, shoot for 20-30 minutes of exercise exerting an effort which makes you just a little short of breath. 

But don’t poopoo simple walking or even just passive arm or leg movement. Even just sitting in a chair and marching in place improves cognitive function and cardiometabolic parameters in nursing home patients. Taking the stairs rather than the elevator or parking farther away from the door of the store to get a few more steps in sound simple and more of a nuisance, but they are all little additions to the daily movement which will keep you healthy.

The list of excuses why people don’t exercise is long. But most of them all boil down to not wanting to put in the effort. You must prioritize it as a “must-do” in your daily regimen. We are hard-wired to preserve energy, to make through the next famine so additional movement is not something we evolved to do. But our modern lives provide us with way too many calories to worry about starvation and we store all the excess as fat. That’s why 75% of us are overweight or obese, starting in childhood. 

There is no question that daily exercise also helps but 

1) you can’t out exercise your mouth so prioritize a whole food, plant based diet and 

2) you can’t undo an entire day of sitting on your butt with a 45 minute gym session so take lots of breaks and move during your day.

You burn as many calories climbing 25 flights of stairs as you do eating just one Oreo cookie. It takes 30 miles of running to lose a pound. 1 soda or ½ a Big Mac is equivalent to 10,000 steps.

So you should not approach exercise as a way to burn calories. It’s a way to improve your health overall in the long run. 

Lifestyle improvements may have very rapid results, but it’s the long game you should be looking at. And the daily little things matter.

Stay well.

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