People who exercise tend to live longer healthier lives..not groundbreaking news. Researchers are finding that exercise is both powerful and wide-reaching. It doesn't just affect muscles and the cardiovascular system, but almost every part of the body. this includes the immune system, the brain, to the energy systems within individual cells. Researchers and clinicians are aiming for the same goal - to think of exercise as medicine, and to prescribe it in specific doses for specific needs.
It's well known that exercise makes blood vessels bigger, keeping our plumbing clear and smooth, and less likely to plug up and cause heart attack or stroke. This has led to speculation that this means more blood flow to the brain, which could help reduce cognitive decline. Studies have linked exercise to reduced risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinsons, and reduces the incidence of dementia. Full benefits of exercise don't just come from movement, but from aerobic fitness, the body's cardiovascular health.
A study at the Mayo Clinic found that after "just 12 weeks of high-intensity exercise, participants' brains showed and increase in glucose uptake and higher metabolic activity." (K. Sreekumaran Nair) Cardiovascular health is showing some importance in preventing degenerative brain diseases through numerous controlled clinical studies around the world, affecting all groups: gender, age, ethnicity, country, region, etc. Even if it's in the beginning stages of understanding how exercise can prevent these brain diseases, it's probably a safe bet to start exercising at any age to improve brain function and health.
Exercise also builds muscle and there are benefits to being brawny. ( Maybe not as brawny as the boxer in the pic but you get the idea)
Muscles are the largest consumers of glucose that flood the bloodstream after a meal, and more muscle means quicker removal of this glucose surge, which could help reduce elevated blood sugars which, as we all know, is a serious health issue for people prone to diabetes. More muscle also enhances the body's immune response to serious illness such as cancer.
Muscle building also helps reverse a key change associated with aging..the decline in the function of mitochondria, or our cells' energy generators. Muscles are filled with mitochondria, and exercise such as aerobic exercise, alone or in combination with strength training can prevent your body from generating more oxidants, those oxygen-rich reactive molecules that damage proteins and DNA.
Muscle has another important role in the body: it has lots of proteins that serve as reservoirs of amino acids for the rest of the body. This is very important for the body to be able to fight off infection and illness as it needs lots of amino acids to make antibodies to fight off infections.
The biggest benefit of building muscle is that in doing so, the muscles signal molecules in the blood, which are released in response to muscular exertion. These molecules help regulate muscle growth, nutrient metabolism, inflammation and a host of other processes. These molecules are called "myokines" and were discovered around 2000, and since then many other molecules have been discovered that are linked to building muscle and overall good health. Increased muscle mass can also help eliminate visceral fat, which is linked to systematic inflammation throughout the body.
As researchers move towards a deeper understanding of how exercise benefits health, the day is approaching when exercise won't just be "something good to do" but medicine which could work like prescriptions to better health. Several studies already point in this direction, where more than half of adults with Type 2 Diabetes were able to stop taking their medication to lower their blood sugar within a year of beginning a regular exercise routine. Another study showed that exercise was just as effective as drugs for people at risk of heart disease and diabetes, and more effective than drugs for rehab after a stroke.
Researchers are busy with many trials and studies to find out which exercises benefit individuals in certain ways, and hope to be able to pinpoint what will help certain individuals like those who suffer from diabetes and heart disease to those who suffer depression and to prevent degenerative brain diseases. Most of the positive health affects will vary by individual, but it's obvious that the answers will be complicated at the end of the studies, but there is a simple truth to all of this - exercise is good for you. Even 15 minutes a day could have long-lasting benefits that could lead to a healthier and longer life.