Science shows exercise affects nearly every cell in the body

2022-01-04 20:24:15
Science shows exercise affects nearly every cell in the body

Regular exercise offers many benefits beyond burning calories — so there are plenty of reasons to keep moving in the new year.

“Research shows that exercise affects pretty much every cell in the body, not just our heart, not just our muscles, but it also affects all the other organs, as well,” Glenn Gaesser, a professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University told NBC News.

“Exercise is something that is vital for good health,” he said

Among the benefits listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are sharper thinking, less depression and anxiety, better sleep, help with weight management, stronger bones and muscles, and reduced risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancers of the breast, the colon and other organs.

To obtain “substantial health benefits,” health guidelines advise adults to do at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination.

Exercise to live longer

Gaesser said research shows that people who are overweight but exercise regularly, still reap many health benefits. “We have found that exercise basically improves health outcomes largely independent of weight loss,” he said.

He co-wrote an article published in iScience in October that reviewed multiple studies and compared weight loss to exercise for promoting longevity and improving people’s overall health.

While most of the data were based on observational studies and can’t be used to establish cause and effect, Gaesser said, the research suggests that intentional weight loss is associated with a reduction in mortality risk of 10 percent to 15 percent.

By comparison, studies suggest that increasing physical activity or improving fitness is associated with a reduction in mortality risk in the range of 15 percent to 60 percent.

Another study published last year also found that exercise promotes longevity — even walking significantly fewer than the often recommended 10,000 steps.

Middle-age people who walked at least 7,000 steps a day on average were about 50 percent to 70 percent less likely to die of cancer, heart disease or other causes over the next decade than those who walked less, according to results in JAMA Open Network.

“Physical activity works on multiple mechanisms within the body, and that’s how it could potentially help prevent chronic conditions and therefore also prevent early deaths,” said the study’s author, Amanda Paluch, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Dr. Robert Sallis has long viewed exercise as a critical part of a healthy lifestyle. As president of the American College of Sports Medicine from 2007 to 2008, he inspired the “Exercise is Medicine” campaign, which encourages physicians to talk to patients about their physical activity, even to “prescribe” it.

Sedentary people who get moving can start feeling better right away, said Sallis, a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of California, Riverside, School of Medicine and the director of the sports medicine fellowship at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana.

“The first thing is mental health. That is almost the first thing people notice — I feel better, I have more energy, I sleep better,” he said. “But then you could just go down the list of chronic diseases. I couldn’t tell you a disease that isn’t helped by it, from diabetes to heart disease to blood pressure to cholesterol to cancer, on and on.”

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