“In the bottle before you is a pill, a marvel of modern medicine that will regulate gene transcription throughout your body, helping prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and 12 kinds of cancer — plus gallstones and diverticulitis. Expect the pill to improve your strength and balance as well as your blood lipid profile. Your bones will become stronger. You’ll grow new capillaries in your heart, your skeletal muscles, and your brain, improving blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Your attention span will increase. If you have arthritis, your symptoms will improve. The pill will help you regulate your appetite and you’ll probably find you prefer healthier foods. You’ll feel better, younger even, and you will test younger according to a variety of physiologic measures. Your blood volume will increase, and you’ll burn fats better. Even your immune system will be stimulated. There is just one catch.
There’s no such pill. The prescription is exercise.” – “The Deadliest Sin” by Jonathan Shaw
This powerful introduction to Harvard Magazine’s “The Deadliest Sin” by Jonathan Shaw (March-April, 2004) highlights the magnitude to which exercise has the ability to improve our health and well-being. We may often wish that we had a magic bullet to address all of our health issues. We do, but it takes consistency and effort.
It is common knowledge that exercise has the ability to improve body composition and strength. While these may seem superficial, multiple authors have found that improving each of these measures correlates with greater longevity (1, 2).
Exercise and diabetes are often linked together, as well. Numerous papers have shown that regular physical activity in non-diabetics can help to ward of the disease, while keeping active as a diagnosed diabetic can help to improve glucose control (3, 4). These mechanisms have been clearly defined throughout the literature (5).
Atherosclerosis, a closely related disease to type 2 diabetes, can also be prevented, managed, and improved with regular exercise (6). Both atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes seem to be highly correlated with insulin resistance. Fortunately, insulin resistance can be greatly reduced, and prevented altogether, through regular exercise (6).
Cancer regression and prevention seems to be positively correlated with physical activity, too (6). In fact, Warburton et. al (2006) found that regular exercises can reduce your rate of developing certain cancers by up to 40% (6).
Read that again.
You can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers by up to 40% just by exercising on a regular basis. Incredible.
But here’s the thing: how you have to exercise to prevent insulin resistance, leading to Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, is greatly different than how you have to exercise to prevent cancer. In fact, exercise that prevents insulin resistance may not be able to prevent cancer at all, and vice versa.
The reason is the mechanisms that stimulate the health-promoting benefits of exercise are frequency, duration, and intensity dependent. In short, exercising to prevent insulin resistance is not intense enough or done for a long enough period of time to optimally prevent cancer. However, exercising to prevent cancer is not done frequently enough to optimally prevent insulin resistance.
What this means is in order to reap the broadest spectrum of health-promoting benefits offered by exercise, you need to exercise at different intensities, for different amounts of time, at varying frequencies. We break this down into two types of exercise: “Special Event” and “All The Time”.
Special Event exercise is exactly as it sounds. It is what you typically think of when you think of exercising – going for a run, playing sports, lifting weights, going to the gym, doing a spin class. This kind of exercise is a thing segmented from everything else in your day. It often includes a change of clothes and a change of location. You operate at a noticeably higher intensity level during this period of time, and it typically doesn’t last more than 30-60 minutes. You will likely be sweating with your heart rate and respiratory rate elevated, as well.
All The Time exercise is the physical activity that you get throughout the day that you may not even consider to be exercise. Activity such as walking from your car to the office, walking throughout the grocery store, or walking up the stairs in your house. This physical activity usually does not require a change of clothing, nor are you usually sweating profusely during these activities.
Now, we have very specific recommendations for you as to the frequency, intensity, and duration of each of these types of exercise, as well as special tips to make sure you can get both types of exercise in throughout your week. BUT, in order to get the how-to of all of this, you need to download our FREE E-BOOK, “Five Simple Steps To Create Lifelong Health Through Exercise”, by clicking here. Our book will be able to give you all the details of what you need to do, how often you need to do it, and how much you should be challenging yourself in order to reap the health and longevity benefits that exercise can provide.
So yes, there is a pill. This pill has the potential to prevent and/or slow the progression of nearly every chronic disease known. It will improve your energy levels, cognitive function, mood, and body composition. This pill is exercise. And as a personal trainer in Schaumburg, I invite you to participate in taking this pill for the rest of your life.
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- Lee C, Blair S, Jackson A. Cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 69(3): 373-380, 1999.
- Rantanen T, Masaki K, He Q, Ross G, Wilcox B, White L. Midlife muscle strength and human longevity up to age 100 years: a 44-year prospective study among a descendant cohort. Age. 34(3): 563-570, 2012.
- Schneider S, Amorosa L, Khachadurian A, Ruderman N. Studies on the mechanism of improved glucose control during regular exercise in Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes. Diabetologia. 26(5): 355-360, 1984.
- Eriksson K, Lindgarde F. Prevention of Type-2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus by diet and physical exercise; the 6-year malmo feasibility study. Diabetologia. 34(12): 891-898, 1991.
- Pedersen B. The diseasome of physical inactivity–and the role of myokines in muscle-fat cross talk. Journal of Physiology. 587(23): 5559-5568, 2009.
- Warburton D, Nicol C, Bredin S. Health benefits of physical activity: the benefits. CMAJ. 174(6): 801-809, 2006.