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Exercise is the second most important thing to improve health

Updated on May 11, 2013

Without question, diet and exercise are two best lifestyle changes that one can do to improve health. Which is more important is debatable.

Some health authorities believe that exercise is the number one thing that you can do to improve your health. Other believe that diet is. Here, the word "diet" does not mean to lose weight, but means nutrition. It means our food choices and eating a balance of foods with the optimal amounts of nutrients.

Of course, there are many factors that affect health. And you try to do all those things in order to maximize their health. I wrote about the top three things to improve health being (1) diet, (2) exercise, and (3) sleep.

I believe that diet is more important than exercise. In fact, for some athletes, it is possible to over-train and decrease health. This was noted by Dr. Doug McGuff here and Mark Sisson. When Dr. Mercola interviews Mark Sisson, Mark says that 80% of one's body composition is based on what you eat. The remaining 20% is based on exercise and other lifestyle activities.

I wrote about diet in many of my other articles. So in this article, I'll write about exercise.

Dr. Mike Evans: "What is the single best thing we can do for our health?"

Exercise helps a variety of health problems

Dr. Mike Evans' visual lecture on YouTube video on the right answers the question "What is the single best thing we can do for our health?" His answer is exercise because exercise helps with so many health problems. Some of the things that exercise can do is ...

  • reducing diabetes
  • reducing dementia and Alzheimers (read how exercise help reduce Alzheimers)
  • help with knee arthritis pain and disability
  • reduce hip fractures in postmenopausal woman,
  • reduce anxiety and depression
  • lower risk of death
  • treat fatigue

The title of this video is "23 and 1/2 Hours" because he wants you to think of the day as 23 and 1/2 hour. The other half hour (or perhaps an hour) is reserved for exercise. And if you can do that for every day, you would improve your quality of life. The exercise that he was referring to was mainly walking.

Biochemistry of Exercise

It is not just that exercise burns calories, more importantly is that exercise has hormonal and biochemical effects that reduces obesity and metabolic syndrome.

In the book Fat Chance by Dr. Robert Lustig, he writes on page 146 that exercise ...

  1. "improves muscle insulin sensitivity, which is key to improving your general metabolic health." It clears out old inefficient mitochondria that produces free radicals and replaces them with new healthy ones.
  2. Reduces stress and blood pressure and cortisol
  3. Increase the liver's Krebs cycle and hence increases metabolism.

High-intensity interval training and resistance training are good at doing this.

The book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome explains the benefits of exercise in the following way ...

"Rapid breathing expels volatile gases out of your body that become harmful if they build up. The increased blood flow helps keep plaque from building up in your arteries while stimulating your liver to perform its 3,000+ functions more efficiently. Cell function improves with the accompanying acceleration of carbon dioxide, oxygen and nutrient exchange. Exercise normalizes levels of cortisol, insulin, blood glucose, growth hormone, thyroid, and several other hormones and puts more oxygen into your brain." [page 129]

To quote another book, The AutoImmune Epidemic, it writes ...

"exercise results in a marked increase in the production of stem cells and new motor neurons -- those same motor neurons that are so essential for remyelinating myelin sheaths and axonal nerves in neurological autoimmune disease. Likewise, exercise can stimulate injured neurons to regenerate their axons" [page 254]

Walking this great exercise

Many others agree that walking is a great exercise. One of whom is Dr. Andrew Weil who say that walking is the "best" exercise on his site.[1] This is because it can be done by almost anyone and is free and you do not need any equipment (except shoes). In addition, it is a low impact exercise that will not hurt your joints.

It should be a brisk walk so that you are breathing a bit faster, and getting a little bit warmer, and possibly sweating a little. To make it more strenuous, you can walk uphill, walk at a faster pace, or carry weights.

According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can lower bad LDL cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol. Walking exercise can also lower blood pressure and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes.[2]

Many Other Types of Exercise

Of course there are many other forms of exercise. It can be swimming, running, jogging, or weight lifting. It can be sports. It can be joining a gym. It can be taking dance classes. It can be doing chores on the house. Or almost any kind of physical activity. Find one that is right for you.

Certain type of work can also be exercise. Think about the mail person who walks miles delivering mail to individual houses. Waiters and waitresses get a great workout, sometime much more of a workout than someone at the gym.

Unfortunately those workers who work in front of a computer all day are not getting that same kind of exercise. Studies have shown that desk workers who sit a lot have increased mortality from all causes than than physically active workers. That's just a nicer way of saying that they die earlier than workers who have physical jobs. Read more about this on The Sydney Morning Herald and MSNBC.

Exercise is the way to health
Exercise is the way to health

Three Types of Exercises

You should do both aerobics and resistance training and flexibility exercises.

Aerobics exercise are ones that get your heart rate pumping. It is good for the heart and decreases coronary heart disease by increases the good HDL cholesterol and lowering triglycerides.

Resistance training are exercise such as lifting weights. It can also be push-ups, use of dumbbells and resistance bands. Resistance training builds muscles and strengthen bones. It also improves insulin sensitivity thereby reducing risk of type 2 diabetes.

Flexibility exercises are like yoga, pilates, tai chi, or stretching. These helps keep you limber and improve flexibility and posture.


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    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 6 years ago

      Great that you both are making exercise as a regular routine.

    • Sparklea profile image

      Sparklea 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      blissfulwriter: I SO agree with this hub! Especially walking! I walk every single day, and I make it a point to park my car far away from wherever I go to get in extra walking. It is so good for body, soul, and spirit! My sister is an aerobics fan and goes several times a week. Just depends on what works for each individual. That being said, exercise is VERY important to everyone. THANK YOU, voted UP. Blessings, Sparklea :)