Health Books| How to Use Exercise to Prevent Disease

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Benefits of Exercise

Researchers at Stanford and Harvard University’s concluded that they saw “no statistically detectable differences” between taking medications for heart disease and prediabetes and structured physical exercise! Nearly 339,300 people participated in 305 randomized controlled trials for comparing the effectiveness of drug interventions and exercise on mortality.

Poor fitness is the number one cause of premature death

We look at why doctors are prescribing exercise and how you can incorporate a range of simple exercises into your daily routine to prevent the onset or development of chronic disease.

Poor Fitness A Main Cause of Premature Death.

Poor fitness has long been recognised as a common factor in the development of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer, heart failure and stroke. According to Dr Jordan Metzl, sports medicine physician at New York City’s Hospital, poor fitness is the number one cause of premature death.

There is a physical reason for this – research indicates that regular exercise optimizes your insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity, helping you keep up regular glucose, insulin and leptin levels.

This equalizing action is perhaps the most essential part in preventing the development of chronic disease. Dr Metzl states that exercise is a “miracle drug” that can prevent, cure or treat any known disease.

Exercise is the best preventive medicine we have, and everybody needs to take that medicine

Research Study Finds Exercise Is Equally Effective As Medication

Research has revealed an amazing similarity between the action of medication prescribed for these conditions and the physical effect on the body as regular exercise.

A meta-study published in October 2013 revealed that an exercise program, properly structured may be as good – or even better – than the drug treatments frequently prescribed for common cardio-vascular ailments.

The effectiveness of exercise was compared by researchers at Stanford and Harvard and drug interventions on mortality outcomes for Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke. The study involved 305 randomized controlled trials, which included nearly 339,300 people.

The meta-study found that exercise and drug interventions were equally effective in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease or Type 2 diabetes, although diuretic drugs were more effective than exercise in treating heart failure. However, exercise programs were more effective than medication for stroke prevention.

Exercise strengthens the entire human machine

Dr. Timothy Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Baton Rouge says that an active life is the most important reason in achieving long-term health.

“Exercise strengthens the entire human machine – the heart, the brain, the blood vessels, the bones, the muscles,” says Dr Church.

Regular exercise not only optimizes your insulin/leptin receptor sensitivity, it also triggers other beneficial biochemical changes, in the process altering more than 20 different metabolites responsible for boosting your fitness through metabolic functions such as fat burning.

How Your Muscles Benefit From Exercise

Your muscles rely on a regular supply of glucose and ATP for contraction and movement. While you are active, your muscles develop tiny rips and tears, and the healing process makes the muscles grow larger and stronger.

This has a follow-on effect of helping you lose weight as muscle maintenance burns off more energy than other tissue maintenance. You also succeed in maintaining healthy bone mass and preventing age-related muscle-loss.

At the same time, your resistance training triggers a range of physical changes on the molecular, enzymatic, hormonal, and chemical level, which have a highly beneficial effect on your overall health.

How Your Lungs Benefit

Once your muscles start strengthening, your lungs are the next organ to feel the benefits of increased fitness. Your muscles are calling out for more oxygen, triggering an increase in your breathing rate. This in turn improves your VO2 max – your maximum capacity for oxygen use. The higher your VO2 max, the healthier and you are and the more efficiently your body is working.

How Your Heart Benefits

Whenever you exercise, your heart rate increases to supply more oxygenated blood to your muscles. With regular exercise, your heart becomes more efficient at this task, lowering your blood pressure and increasing your stamina so you can exercise for longer and harder.

How Your Brain Benefits

The increased blood flow stimulates your brain function and regenerates brain cell growth, so you think more clearly and your capacity for memory and learning expands.

Exercise also triggers neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and GABA. These neurotransmitters are all recognised for their beneficial effects on mood control, so exercise is also recognised as highly effective for prevention and treatment of depression.

How Your Bones Benefit

When you are born, your bones are extremely soft and porous, becoming denser as you grow older. With an active life incorporated plenty of weight-bearing exercise, your bones will remain strong. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or lifting, places all your weight on your bones, building up their strength. When you are inactive, your bones become brittle increasing your risk of developing osteoporosis.

It is important to make sure that your exercise program becomes a natural segment of your routine, so you don’t miss out on valuable exercise simply because you were too busy to attend the gym this week or you have lost interest. The best exercise programs merge into your everyday life, so you can’t help exercising.

Once you realize how much “exercise” you actually do in a day, you will feel more motivated to incorporate a few more short sessions to maximise your fitness. While you don’t need to commit hours of your time to exercising, you do need to perform a range of exercise routines throughout a week, to make sure each muscle group is both exercised and given recovery time.

There are six main categories of exercise that help build your overall fitness. The first four are specific exercise routines – high intensity interval training, strength exercises, core exercises and foundation training.

You don’t need to join a gym

If you dedicate just twenty minutes a week to each of these four categories, you can build your body’s strength and stamina while still having plenty of time for your body to recover. You don’t need to join a gym or any special classes to do these exercises. Simply start slow and gently, so your body can gradually build muscle and stamina.

The other two types of exercise – stretching and intermittent movement – can be performed consistently every day to keep up the positive results of your main exercise routine and to increase your flexibility and balance.

High Intensity Interval Training

Like any useful treatment, exercise should be done consistently and in moderation. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start slowly, or you risk injuring yourself. Current research suggests that the best exercise routine is based on two twenty-minute sessions a week of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Your twenty-minute session could involve a range of exercises to stimulate all the different muscles in your body: for example, in one session you might alternate lunge jumps with push-ups, jumping rope and a one-minute sprint. Your body has several days to recover between sessions while the tiny rips and tears in your muscles can build into stronger muscle.

This is a switch from earlier recommendations of longer exercise sessions such as long-distance running, which is now considered being a high-risk exercise activity. Another benefit of the HIIT strategy is the short twice-weekly sessions are easier to fit into your routine.

However, researchers believe that the biggest benefit of HIIT is that it follows the natural exercise pattern for humans established by our hunter-gatherer ancestors who would have exercised in short intense bursts, followed by periods of recovery.

A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism has found that when healthy but inactive people exercise, even in brief bursts, they experience drastic and immediate health benefits. Firstly, their DNA is affected as genetic activity stimulates the production of fat-busting (lipolytic) enzymes, changing the way they metabolise fat.

After two weeks of HIIT training, with three sessions a week, healthy but inactive people had improved their insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation.

Twice weekly twenty-minute HIIT sessions are enough to lower your body fat and increase your muscle tone while boosting your natural speed and performance ability. You will experience an increase in energy and libido, and your body will increase the production of human growth hormone (HGH) a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, reproduction and cell regeneration.

Strength Training

Strength training (also known as resistance training) helps increase the strength and tone of your muscles by making the muscles exert a force against a weight or other type of resistance. You don’t need expensive equipment to practice strength training – even two bags of flour can act as a resistance.

Work out a set of strength training exercises to build up different muscles, and practice this routine once a week. This gives you time for your muscles to recover before your next session.

It is important to warm up before strength training, so start each routine with a few minutes of jogging or skipping.

Core exercises

Your 29 core muscles, in your back, abdomen and pelvis, give balance and stability to your entire body, helping you do other exercise routines more safely and efficiently.

Strong core muscles will protect and support your back and protect you from potential injury. Core exercises include crunches, push-ups and planks. Create a simple routine featuring a variety of core exercises and work through the routine at least once a week.

Foundation Training

Foundation training is an exercise program created by Dr Eric Goodman. It combines core exercises with exercises for your back, glute and hamstrings, improving your posture and your overall fitness.

This exercise routine is said to be extremely effective for people who have suffered a back injury, and for helping you retrain your body so you can do high-intensity exercises safely. Programs like Pilates and yoga also strengthen your core muscles, building your stamina for more demanding routines.


Stretching is a time-friendly exercise with many important health benefits. Stretching is the most effective way to increase your flexibility and your range of motion, making it easier to do other fitness routines. It also increases circulation, thereby increasing blood flow to the muscles which helps reduce muscle pain after exercise.

Another valuable benefit to stretching is the relaxation of muscles, alleviating stress. When you are stressed, your muscles become tense. Stretching exercises release this tension while simultaneously releasing the mood-enhancing endorphins associated with healthy exercise.
You can do a set of gently stretching exercises several times a day, improving your performance of more complex and demanding routines.

Never Sit to Long

All the valuable benefits of a balanced exercise program can be undermined by one simple factor – sitting down too long. When you spend too long sitting down each day, your muscles fail to contract which in turn decreases blood flow throughout your body. A 2012 study found that adults who spend an average of 6 hours a day sitting down cut their life expectancy by about five years.

All you need to do is stand up every 15 minutes.

This might seem like common sense, but anyone who comes home from a sedentary job to watch television is probably clocking up 6 or more hours of sedentary activity each day. However, once you are aware of the dangers related to sitting down too long, you can quickly work an easy solution into your routine.

All you need to do is stand up every 15 minutes. Just as weight-bearing exercise is extremely beneficial for your health, the simple act of standing up and moving is vital for your well-being.

Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division says that any change in a posture that works against gravity is beneficial to your health.

According to Dr Vernikos, one of the most beneficial exercises of all is actually standing up from a sitting position. So if you are concerned you have been sitting down too long, stand up quickly! Place a timer on your desk to alert you every 15 minutes to jump up and flex your limbs and joints.

Other Intermittent Movement exercises include walking briskly up and down stairs, hanging out laundry and pushing a vacuüm cleaner. See! You’re already exercising more than you thought!


It is very much key to remain motivated and where possible try to find activities that are fun. Smart phones allow one to listen to ones favourite music or alternatively one might try buying and downloading audio books which will allow one to listen to a good book while one engages in almost any exercise activity. Make exercising fun and enjoyable, as one begins to feel better, exercise becomes something to look forward to, not something to avoid.

So don’t wait for your doctor to prescribe medication to avoid these conditions – self-prescribe some exercise into your daily routine!

Please leave your comments below.


“Exercise as Preventive Medicine.” Well Exercise as Preventive Medicine Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2014.
N.p., n.d. Web.
“This Interval Training Infographic Helps You Pick the Right Workout.” N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2014.

Benefits of Exercise

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