In Part I we discussed that when you exercise you're essentially burning away the bad hormones plus promoting the release of good hormones into the blood stream so you get a double dose of benefit.
There is no part of your body that doesn't benefit from moderate exercise. Clearly, there are the physical benefits to the musculo-skeletal system, cardio-vascular system, and respiratory system with which everyone is well acquainted. Less obvious, and arguably more important, are the benefits to the chemical systems of the body. Remember that the number of stressors are infinite, but there is only one response - the release of "bad" hormones into the blood stream, as discussed in Part I. Who catches a cold - the happy-go-lucky person on top of the world or the one under stress? Stress hormones inhibit the function of the chemical systems of the body and this includes the immune system. When you exercise you essentially burn away the bad hormones plus promote the release of good hormones improving the chemical systems of the body as well as the familiar physical systems.
The idea that we should exercise was laughable a generation or two ago when we were a farming and manufacturing society. Our parents and grandparents didn't need exercise - they needed rest. But, this is the information age where we sit at desks in front of computers all day. Americans are sadly out of shape. You have to get up in the morning to go to work. You have to go to the grocery store and run the vacuum. You have to do a multitude of things, but what do you not have to do? Answer - exercise. As a result, in a modern, stressful society stress hormones build up and become a constant presence in our bodies. One of the first things to suffer is sleep. Sleep deprivation is itself a stressor further releasing adrenaline and other stress hormones into our blood stream. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic with an estimated 50-70 million US adults having sleep or wakefulness disorders.
Now the Dog Begins Chasing His Own Tail
We tell ourselves we are too tired to exercise because poor sleep translates to no energy although moderate exercise to burn away the stress hormones and release the good hormones would actually improve this. Further, because much of the fat burning metabolic (chemical) activities of the liver and other internal organs occurs at night during restful sleep, compounded by the fact that we are not burning sufficient calories during the day, we begin putting on weight. And now, we have yet another American epidemic directly correlated with heart disease, diabetes, and a host of musculo-skeletal problems. In addition, becoming over-weight and out-of-shape is begging for an injury, so we tear the cartilage in our knees and herniate the discs in our backs. Of course one can't exercise with a bad back or a damaged knee. Also, pain is a huge stressor, and so are the drugs used to treat chronic pain which additionally stress the gastro-intestinal tract leading to heartburn and indigestion. Soon we're no longer sure whether we don't sleep well because we can't quite get comfortable in the bed due to the pain (physical), or because of the build-up of stress hormones in the blood stream (chemical), or the worry about all the things that aren't getting done (mental/emotional). Perhaps if we felt better, rested better, and were in better shape we wouldn't be as anxious and depressed. And so it goes.
Once the downward spiral begins it escalates as every little thing makes every other thing worse. The entry point into this dwindling spiral of poor health could be anything or everything in a multitude of different combinations as the dog chases his tail this way and that into complexities that the most learned physiologist doesn't completely understand and can't explain. As complex and convoluted as it may be, the way out of the labyrinth is the same in every case - diet and exercise.
The benefit to exercise that most people are most familiar with is an improvement in cardio-vascular health. According to the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control) heart disease is the number cause of death in the United States. Walking of course helps strengthen the heart muscle which naturally improves simple physical strength, but exercising the heart also improves what is known as stroke volume which simply means that as the heart becomes more efficient and moves a greater quantity of blood with each pump it basically doesn't have to work as hard. Remember, too, that exercise burns away the bad hormones and these include cholesterol that contributes to cardio-vascular disease, so again you combat stress in two ways: Physically by simply being in better shape, and chemically by burning off the bad chemicals.
CDC Number of deaths for leading causes of death: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm
Diabetes is another health epidemic in the United States affecting younger and younger individuals. There is a physical benefit to using and strengthening the muscles because this burns glucose. Insulin causes cells to take up glucose from the blood so it stands up to reason that if you were using your muscles and burning up the glucose you wouldn't need as much insulin. In addition, there is a direct chemical benefit because it actually improves the insulin sensitivity of those muscles cells. This whole process gets very complicated, very quickly but experts agree that exercise can help diabetes.
- Walking is the Best Medicine (Part I)
- Walking is the Best Medicine (Part II) - a Double Dose of Benefit
- Walking is the Best Medicine (Part III) - Getting Started
Dr. Michael L. Hall, D.C. practices at Triangle Disc Care in Raleigh, North Carolina specializing in Spinal Decompression for the treatment of acute and chronic neck pain and back pain due to herniated, degenerated discs. This is a conservative procedure, first approved for use in the U.S. in 2001, for patients suffering with bulging or herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, posterior facet syndrome, sciatica, failed back surgery syndrome, and non-specified mechanical low back or neck pain.
My job is to improve a patient's back or neck pain to the point where they do sleep better and have more energy, and get them exercising so they break the stress cycle, stop chasing their tail, and improve their health. For more information call 919-571-2515, click on www.triangledisc.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Type "Free eBook - 101 Things I Need to Know about my Bad Back" into the subject line.