Happy New Year, let’s start it strong by talking about exercise and how it can improve your health on all levels, in fact, the benefits are endless. We’re not just talking about being fitter and stronger (my goal this year!), we’re talking about long term, overall health and longevity.
Regular exercise improves your gut microbiome thereby improving your heart, brain, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy and gets you better sleep. Exercise prevents death from any cause (“all cause mortality”). Convinced yet?
The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels and it all starts in the gut. One study has shown that people who exercised for 6 weeks positively changed the composition of their gut bacteria. The kind of bacteria that produces short-chain fatty acids was increased, these fatty acids reduce inflammation and therefore reduce the chance of inflammatory and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart and brain disorders. Once again, our microbiome is incredible and where we need to put our focus for a better chance at a healthier longevity.
The great news is that you don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health results, and I’m all for work less but smart. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough. In fact, I love high intensity interval training where you only need to go full on for 15 minutes, 3 times a week! With this type of exercise, you can continue burning calories for up to 72 hours because after short, intense exercise your body has to work twice as hard to recover, creating the ‘after-burn’ effect.
And you don’t have to do a particular kind of exercise to see benefits, all four types of exercise below have health benefits. They are:
● Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming)
● Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates)
● Balance (standing on one foot, Tai Chi)
● Flexibility (stretching, yoga; great for bowel motility!)
Don't forget, all exercise counts, even if it's not doing a sport or in a gym. Weekend hikes, running up stairs, walking to the store and doing household chores also count towards your weekly exercise goal. Let me take a minute to prove to you how important improving your gut health and exercise really is. Here are a few key points.
Exercise for heart health
Exercise reduced cardiac mortality by 31% in middle aged men who previously had a heart attack. Regular exercise reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).
Exercise for brain health
Exercise can improve physical function and quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease. It also reduces changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise improved mental functions by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is involved in learning and memory. It also increases the size of the part of the brain for memory and learning (the "hippocampus"); this was shown mostly with aerobic exercise.
Exercise for muscle and bone health
Regular physical activity can help maintain strong muscles and bones; this is particularly true for strength exercises. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle mass and bone density. So, to prevent osteoporosis, exercise regularly.
PRO TIP: balance exercises and Tai Chi can help prevent falls.
Exercise for diabetes
People with diabetes who exercise have better insulin sensitivity and HbA1C values (the marker of glycemic control). Exercise does this because by contracting your muscles, you’re fueling them with sugar in your blood. This helps to manage blood sugar levels better than without exercise.
To sum it up;
All the above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health benefits of exercise. By doing just 30 minutes 5 days/week, you can vastly improve your health because research shows that exercise positively affects the bacteria in our microbiome that reduce inflammation and therefore reduces risk of all manner of chronic disease. Since there are different benefits for different types of exercise, try mixing up what you do throughout the week, and do it for short amounts of time with high intensity. You don’t even need an “official” workout. Walking to the grocery store or doing household chores can count too.
If you’re just starting, then pick something you enjoy, get some accountability (exercise tracker or a buddy), and just start. And if you need help with the diet part, check out my FREE 5-day challenge to end sugar cravings, click to picture below!
What’s your favorite exercise and how often do you do it?
1 cup coconut water (watch the sugars!)
2 cups watermelon
½ tsp lime juice
1 dash salt
1 cup ice
2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
Blend the first four ingredients until well mixed. Add ice and pulse until ice is crushed.
Pour into glasses or water bottle and add chia seeds. Shake/stir before drinking.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: The chia seeds add extra fiber, protein, and omega-3s.
‘til next time!