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Physical Activity – the best drug we need



Now I am not going to set about telling you, you need to meet the physical activity guidelines set out by the government:

Exercising 3-5 times a week for 30 minutes at ….. blah blah blah

Or that a female needs to eat 2000 calories daily or a male needs to eat slightly more at 2500 calories daily, made up of blah blah blah

Somewhere something is going wrong with us as a population; either our calorie intake is set too high for us as we appear to be a sedentary population or we are eating above the needs of our physical activity.



We can see from the graphs above that we are fast becoming an overweight and unhealthy population. As we get older we stop meeting the demands set out by the government.

Research is showing that there are many positives to changing our eating and exercise habits with Michael Mosely reflecting these approaches in recent Horizon programmes highlighting the effects of the 5 : 2 diet (The Power of Intermittent Fasting) and High Intensity Interval Training (The Truth About exercise) – which both have reported benefits on the mind and body. So do we need to meet the guidelines set out by the government to be healthy? When it has been reported that we can get the same health benefits by exercising for less?  

Why is being physically active good for us? Well through being physically active the body releases its own drugs which are productive in helping fight and control many diseases. When we have these diseases or as prevetion tools GPs often turn to prescription drug, when some of these drugs have negative side effects. In today’s climate why are they not prescribing the drug ‘physical activity’. Physical activity helps:


-       Aerobic and resistance training are associated with a decreased  risk of type 2 diabetes. Several studies report reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes among high risk individuals after lifestyle interventions.

-       Aerobic and resistance training are reported to have benefits when controlling type 2 diabetes. Resistance training may have more benefits for glycemic control

-       How does exercise help? Glucose is used to supply the body with energy, when we exercise we use around 20 times more glucose compared to when we were sitting still. Exercise mimics the glucose controlling effects of insulin. *note – if a diabetic keep an eye on your blood glucose levels as prolonged exercise may increase your blood glucose levels. Monitor blood glucose levels before and after training comparing the effects of both resistance and cardiovascular training – be familiar with the effects of both on your blood glucose levels.


-       Reports suggests routine physical activity reduces the incidence of specific cancers such as colon (decreased risk by 30-40% for women and men) and breast cancer (20-30% reduction relative risk for women) at a moderate intensity.

-       How does exercise help? Exercise reduces the level of insulin in the body which is associated with some cancers. Exercise also helps repair T-cells which are damaged during chemotherapy. Exercise also lowers both estrogen and testosterone levels – which when elevated have been linked to some cancers.


-       Exercise, particularly resistance training, has the greatest effect on bone mineral density.  Fracture rates are reportedly lower among people who perform weight bearing exercises compared to sedentary people.


-       Exercise releases endorphins which react with the receptors in your brain, these endorphins also act in a similar way to morphine, it that they provide positive feelings.

-       Endorphins acts as pain buffers, known as analgesics

-       Do activities that are beneficial to you – high intensity bouts of exercise release the feel good hormones/endorphins whilst yoga and pilates can aid relaxation


-       Cholesterol is found in our food and produced in the body. We have good and bad cholesterol, Low density lipoproteins (LDL) which are bad and High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)

-       LDL deposits excess cholesterol on the arteries walls, increasing blood pressure as less space for blood to get through (imagine and hose squeezed at the end)

-       HDL deposits excess cholesterol in the liver

-       Exercise increase the production of HDL, this increases the amount of cholesterol which is transported the to the liver and excreted. Exercise also reduce triglycerides which promote the production of LDL

 Blood Pressure

-       Physical activity makes our heart stronger, this means it can pump more blood with each beat around the body. This reduces the force through your arteries, reducing your blood pressure (see previous blood pressure blog)

-       Less LDL sticking to the walls of our arteries also reduces our blood pressure, less LDL on the artery walls means more space for the same about of blood to pass through at the same time


A good Review paper if you want to read alittle more on this subject is

Health benefits of Physical Activity: the evidence. Warburton et al 2006.

To find it go to Google, Scholar search and type in the article name. It should be the first one that appears.