After eight episodes of offering natural effective cures like fish, nuts and their oils and other essential fatty acids to spices, roots, gums, enzymes, vegetables, greens and fruits for silent inflammation and its prevention, I would like to tackle a different aspect of anti-inflammatory lifestyles far from food. We have seen that scientific evidence pointed to causes of internal inflammation such as excess refined sugar and carbohydrates and soda drinks; too much saturated and trans fats and fries and food additives (coloring, preservatives) and artificial sugar (aspartame, saccharin), which turn into oxidants in the body, increasing free radicals and storing toxins. Of course, there are other culprits like tobacco smoking, alcohol, drugs, emotional, mental and physical stress and environmental pollution (radioactive waste, radiation, car exhaust, heavy metals, etc…). Today, it is about exercise, the essential lifestyle, that can counteract their effects and keep the body, brain, organs and systems healthy and operational.
Exercise is probably the single lifestyle habit that is capable of maintaining the body healthy and functional without the help of the other practices. It keeps the heart pumping adequately and blood circulating efficiently. Let us see how moderate activities like swimming, cycling and running help keep us well and in good condition. According to the book of David Agus, MD, End of Illness, scientific evidence pointed to the many benefits that physical activity produces on the heart, brain, neurons, cells, organs and systems.
One of the major advantages is that it counteracts the effects of the devastating stress hormone cortisol, a leader in promoting internal inflammation. It may surprise you to know that even a little inflammation can be harmful to health in a big way and moderate activity can produce direct benefits to mental and physical health by making oxygen and nutrients available to the blood, tissue, cells, neurons, organs and systems in order to allow them to function optimally, as well as nourish and help them repair.
The release of the hormone, endorphin, in the brain during physical training and activity counteracts the effects of damaging cortisol, stress and depression. By acting similarly to the morphine drug, it soothes muscle soreness produced by extensive training; reduces joint swelling and pain and gives feeling of well-being and vitality. Moreover, exercise facilitates oxygen and blood flow and nutrient and phytochemical circulation in the brain, cells, organs and systems, promoting the healing of inflammation; speeding tissue and cell repair; improving cognitive skills; increasing lung capacity; preventing metabolic disorders (obesity, diabetes, vascular disorders, hypertension); boosting the immune defences; delaying mental decline and slowing the aging process.
Aerobic exercises and muscle building decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels; dissolve away artery plaque; improve sex drive and sugar levels; replace fat with muscles; build bone strength; lower body mass index (BMI) and enhances the metabolic rate. They also raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, which sweeps away LDL and blood vessel plaque and prevents blood clots. Activity produces powerful anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidant effects that fight and lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disorder, strokes, dementia and cancer.
Exercise has yet other advantages; it helps control weight gain and trims the body of fat, replacing it with muscles and energy. It regulates hormones like neurotransmitters (brain chemical messengers), insulin and stress hormones, which reduce incidents of depression, mood swings, diabetes, insulin resistance and inflammation-related disorders. By improving oxygen and nutrient influx in the body, brain, blood, cells, organs and systems, activity enhances overall mental and physical health, stamina and wellness.
According to Dr. Agus, certain cancer patients were able to beat cancer (another inflammation-related disorder) and live to the age of 90 years by reducing their inflammation levels and improving their lifestyle habits with swimming, regular activity, positive attitudes and keeping close watch on their health. He strongly believes that physical training is “the only scientifically proven “secret” to youth that doesn’t require a huge investment of time or money.”
You must be surprised that I did not mention the heart or the cardiovascular system when discussing exercise. Well, I wanted to leave that part to the end in order to express emphasis on the importance of regular activity to the human heart and health. Agus is a great believer in exercise in reducing inflammation and improving health and heart hygiene in particular. He explained about an extensive 60-year-old study conducted by Dr. Jeremiah Morris on drivers and conductors of the famous red London double-decker buses. The results demonstrated the elevated risk of coronary artery disease and early mortality among the bus drivers, while their more physically active counterparts, the conductors, who constantly moved up and down the double-decker buses were at a much lower risk of the disease and its fatality than the bus drivers, thus delaying cardiac problems. Despite other scientists’ and doctors’ of the medical profession scepticism of these findings, 30 years later in 1980, Morris published a study stating that “vigorous exercise is a natural defence of the body, with a protective effect on the aging heart against ischemia and its consequences.” Morris, himself, remained an active proponent of exercise until his death at the young age of 99 and half years.
In the last decades, more studies and research have shown the importance of physical activity in protecting against strokes, cognitive decline, heart-related problems and metabolic syndromes (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, vascular disorders).
A very recent research, led by Dr. Emma Wilmot from the Diabetes Group at the University of Leicester, England, found that sedentary lifestyles and especially sitting for extended hours in front of computers and television resulted in higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and early mortality. On the other hand, frequent daily activity was shown to reduce incidents of the above conditions. The team’s recommendation was regular activity all day long and after work, whether indoor or outdoors, in order to energize the body, brain, organs and different systems, brighten the mood and keep healthy and young with age.
The Australia’s Department of Health and Ageing is also putting more emphasis on physical activity even at a very early age. It recommends having toddlers and pre-schoolers before 6 years of age become more active and sportive during the day for at least three cumulative hours in order to prevent obesity in childhood and adulthood. Unless weight and obesity are controlled, the consequences of obesity can impact cognitive and school performances along with developing health problems during adolescence, resulting from obesity, premature diabetes 2 and other metabolic syndromes.
To start exercising regularly, we need to make a schedule and get committed. Next week, I will discuss, inshallah, another important aspect of healthy lifestyles, which is stress reduction. Be active to stay healthy, wealthy and wise!
P.S. Most of the information in my previous and last articles on inflammation come from the below books and more, Internet and other sources.
“The Inflammation Syndrome,” an interesting simplified book written by Jack Challem, the publisher and editor of the newsletter, The Nutrition Reporter
Dr. Sears, The Anti-inflammation Zone Diet
David Agus, MD, The End of Illness
N.B.: Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.
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