Researchers have long known that exercise is perhaps the finest medication of all; studies have shown that it can reduce the incidence of dementia by as much as 45% and preserve strong blood vessels, strong bones, and muscle fibers that regenerate rather than deteriorate.
In terms of disability-adjusted life years, both cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer rank highest in the world’s disease burden. There is continuous discussion regarding the relative contributions of different risk and protective factors to the incidence and mortality from these conditions. In 2019, CVD was responsible for 17.9 million annual deaths, while cancer caused 9.6 million deaths in 2017.
The statistics are withering in terms of their magnitude, and we have to wonder what we might do to turn them around, even a bit; the way to do it may be within everyone’s reach. And one thing we CAN do is get off the couch or easy chair and begin working those beautiful muscles of ours.
The main motivations behind the use of many new technologies have been to increase worker productivity and decrease physical hardships and disabilities associated with jobs that require extended heavy lifting; however, the human body has evolved in such a way that the majority of its systems—such as the skeletal, muscular, metabolic, and cardiovascular systems—do not develop and function optimally without stimulation from regular physical activity.
Sadly, the unfavorable byproduct of a loss of historical physical activity levels in our modern culture is an increased risk of chronic disease. Today, machinery and other technology have replaced much of the physical activity that chose optimal gene expression for energy metabolism. Skeletal muscle insulin resistance is a major effect of inactivity, and it can lead to the development of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
When compared to not exercising at all, even one hour and a quarter of moderate exercise each week—half the recommended amount—reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and early mortality. The results of one study provide important evidence for inactive individuals by demonstrating that modest amounts of activity provide substantial benefits for delaying mortality while also assuring very active individuals that there is no exercise-associated increase in mortality risk—with caveats regarding existing illness. The findings are informative for people at both ends of the physical activity spectrum.
Without a doubt, exercise of any type should be incorporated into everyone’s lifestyle, and it can be of high intensity, if a PCP agrees, or subtle changes that are not strenuous or intense. All results from studies over the past half-century point to exercise protecting us from a variety of illnesses and potentially prolonging our lives.