Scientists have demonstrated that moderately active rats have healthier DNA and more robust brain cells than their less active counterparts. This is the first study to show that lifelong exercise actually decreases cellular aging in the brain.

Enjoyable Light Exercise

In the study, the animals were not forced to run; they only did as much exercise as they found enjoyable -- what would translate to a daily 30-minute walk or a light 1-mile run in a human.

Brains Like Rats a Quarter of Their Age

At the end of the experiment, the brains of the rats were examined. The more active rats were found to have fewer byproducts of oxidative stress in their brains. In fact, the DNA for those animals, after two years, looked much like those of their younger counterparts of only about 6 months of age.

Oxidative Damage

Oxidative damage in the brain contributes to memory loss, and has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

The next step in the research would be to determine which natural chemicals and mechanisms are triggered by exercise to fight oxidative stress.

EurekAlert November 12, 2005

Dr. Mercola's Comment:Exercise is, without question, one of the most powerful tools you can use to help you achieve optimal health. It is my belief that it is virtually impossible to achieve without. You can't pay someone to do it for you. You simply must do it yourself.

I believe this is related to our requirement to have hard physical labor to obtain our food. Modern society has replaced the necessity of manual labor but not our genetic requirement to work. So exercise is merely the replacement for work that most of us do not do in our normal jobs.

It certainly is true for me as I am typically in front of my computer monitor for 10-16 hours a day and is one of the primary reasons why one of my highest priorities is to exercise regularly. Believe me I plan my schedule around my exercise, not the other way around. This way exercise is never crowded out due to schedule conflicts. It just needs to be a high priority if you are going to do it.

Fortunately even light exercise can make a world of difference to the health of these rats.

But as one scientist wisely pointed out in this study, there's one major difference between rats and humans. Putting an exercise wheel in a small cage will entertain and boost the physical and mental health of rats, because they will use it. But buying an exercise bike or a health club membership doesn't mean you'll ever get around to using it.

If your goal is to optimize your health, starting an exercise program is just as important as retooling your diet. To get you headed in the right direction, try viewing exercise like a drug that needs to be prescribed precisely to achieve the most benefits.

The key to exercising effectively is to make sure the variables below are properly addressed. By doing so, you will ensure all your hard efforts are not wasted and are having a positive effect on your body. To aid you in your exercise efforts, there are three important variables to keep in mind:

  • Length of time
  • Frequency
  • Intensity

I encourage my patients to gradually increase the amount of time they are exercising to 60 to 90 minutes a day. Initially the frequency is daily. This is a treatment dose until they normalize their weight or insulin levels. Once normalized, they will only need to exercise three to four times a week.

Dr. Al Searsalso hasan intriguingPACE program. He pstrongly believeslong distance running is not the best exercise for you.

Turns out thatwhat youreally need is a combination of bothendurance exerciseand anaerobic typesprinting exercises (weight training will also work) to help increase the instant dramatic demands on your cardiovascular system that can precipitate heart attacks,such asin the winter when you might be shoveling snow.

He has quite a comprehensive program and I would strongly encourage you to consider reviewing it. I do plan on doing a more comprehensive review on the PACE program sometime in the future.

You should exercise hard enough so that it is difficult to talk to someone next to you. When you are exercising that hard your cardiovascular system is under such a significant amount of stress that the mere act of talking makes you unable to provide your body with enough oxygen. However, if you cannot carry on a conversation AT ALL, then you have gone too far and need to decrease the intensity.

To learn more about getting started, you'll want to review some of the more recent columns I've posted by contributing editors and exercise experts Paul Chek and Ben Lerner.

Author's Bio: 

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