NEWSTART Element #2: Exercise

A detailed, scientific explanation of Nutrition by Neil Nedley, M.D., taken from his book Proof Positive

In this chapter thus far we have examined the first element of NEWSTART,which is nutrition. The second element, exercise, is also of critical importance in a total lifestyle approach to health. Throughout this book, exercise has been a recurring theme in disease prevention. As physical activity increases from less than 500 calories expended per week in exercise, mortality rates decrease.28 The greatest benefit is for those who expend greater than 3500 calories per week in exercise, but great benefit is obtained from exercising as little as 750 calories expended per week.29 To help you in planning an exercise program, activities that will expend 150 calories are listed in Figure 8: Examples of Moderate Exercise.30

In the 1990s, almost everyone has heard of the importance of exercise for decreasing the risk of both heart disease and cancer. Some of the cardiovascular benefits of endurance training are listed in Figure 9: Cardiovascular Benefits for Endurance Training.31

Notice that the tendency for the blood to clot is a result of endurance exercise, which will protect against heart attacks and strokes. HDL also increases. We have known for years that exercise is important to boost levels of the good cholesterol, HDL. However, research now suggests that there is a dose response relationship between exercise and HDL levels. Simply put, the more you exercise the higher your HDL level. This has only been recently appreciated. The HDL was measured on nearly 3000 men who were categorized according to their reported exercise levels. The results are tabulated in Figure 10: HDL Levels Increase with more Exercise.32

The research documenting a dose response relationship between HDL and exercise provides another explanation for the heart-improving benefits of physical fitness. One special note is in order regarding this study. Because of the powerful HDL-depressing effects of smoking, all smokers were excluded from the research. In other words, we do not know from this research whether exercise boosts HDL in a similar manner for smokers. What we do know is that a smoker who is concerned about his heart disease risk would be best to stop smoking in addition to exercising and eating right. Actually, research suggests that exercise improves the chances of successfully stopping smoking. A recent Brown University study found that women who exercised were less likely to begin smoking again.33

Exercise provides a well-recognized benefit for those with diabetes or high blood pressure. It is also an essential ingredient of a program that boosts our immune systems and energy levels. There are many more benefits of endurance training, as listed in Figure 11: Other Benefits of Endurance Training.34, 35

One interesting study involved an attempt to improve the communication skills of two groups of Alzheimer’s patients. One group was put in a walking exercise program, and the other group was given lessons in conversation. Over 40 percent of the exercise group experienced significant improvement in communication skills, while the “conversation therapy” group experienced no significant improvement in their communication skills.36

In considering all of the thrilling evidence about the benefits of exercise, perhaps the most startling effect is the widespread prevention of disease that would occur if everyone merely exercised regularly. Current estimates are that the lack of exercise in America causes up to one-third of deaths from the following three major diseases: coronary heart disease, colon cancer, and diabetes.37

The first two elements of the NEW-START program (nutrition and exercise) beautifully complement each other. Nutrition works together with exercise to give more benefits than either one alone. This is true of diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. However, it is also true for quality-of-life concerns. Recall the classic research that demonstrated the superiority of the vegetarian diet regarding athletic endurance.

Other quality-of-life benefits are in the area of mental performance. For example, middle-aged individuals—and even those up into their 80s who do not suffer from Alzheimer’s disease—have been demonstrated to have a measurable improvement in memory following aerobic exercise programs of nine or ten weeks in duration.38 In fact, older Americans have a progressive improvement in mental function as they increase their amount of exercise. As one research article put it: “There was a clear linear relationship between the level of activity and the level of cognitive [mental] ability.”39 A consensus panel convened by the National Institute of Mental Health identified still other important quality-of-life benefits from exercise. They are listed in Figure 12: Exercise Improves the Quality of Life.40

Although health professionals have emphasized for years the importance of exercise in preventing life-threatening diseases in order to motivate their patients to exercise, this is probably not the most effective strategy to promote exercise. Improvements in the various facets of the quality of life appear to be the most important reasons that many become regular exercisers. RUNNER’S WORLD magazine published the results of an exercise survey of 700 of its subscribers in 1990. Notice the various reasons for adopting an exercise program:

These top reasons were all related to the quality of life. Further down the list were lifesaving reasons that professionals think are the most motivating. Only 42 percent identified heart disease prevention as a reason for exercising.

Medical research continues to uncover more and more benefits of exercise on quality of life. Harvard researchers recently documented that exercise decreases the risk of developing diabetes in adulthood.41 As little as one workout a week cut diabetes risk by 29 percent. The preventive effect was not merely the result of weight reduction. Other preliminary research suggests that regular exercise may help to forestall hearing loss.42 Dr. Helaine M. Alessio and colleagues from Miami University in Ohio exposed 28 people to relatively loud noise (100 decibels). The most fit subjects retained more hearing capacity than those who were not as fit. One explanation for the difference is that regular exercise may improve the flow of oxygen-rich blood through the tiny blood vessels in the ear.

As a testimony to the far-reaching benefits of exercise, when the Center for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine published recommendations in 1995, they presented an ideal schedule of “daily exercise.” Gone are the days of recommending three days a week as being sufficient. In the words of the report, “Every U.S. adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.”43

In Chapter 2 on cancer, attention is focused on the importance of exercise on the immune system. There we see some of the encouraging research that has demonstrated exercise’s ability to decrease cancer in general44 as well as providing special help for devastating cancers like those of the lung, colon, uterus, ovaries, vagina, and cervix.45, 46, 47 Some of the reasons that exercise has such far-reaching stimulating effects on the immune system are presented. A number of natural immune fighting cells and chemicals are enhanced by exercise. These same benefits to the immune system that help to prevent life-threatening cancers can also help to prevent the annoying everyday illnesses such as coughs, colds, and flues.48

It is not clear exactly how much exercise is needed to prevent cancer; however, consistency appears to be an important factor. The same likely holds true for other immune system benefits from exercise. The conclusion regarding the fighting of infections and cancer is that exercise should be a part of our daily lifestyle.

Many sedentary middle-aged or elderly people shy away from initiating an exercise program because of fear of experiencing a heart attack. However, if they start slowly and do not exercise to the point of exhaustion, chances are they will not need a medical consultation before initiating such a program.

Those with certain physical conditions should have an evaluation prior to initiating endurance training.49 They are listed in Figure 13: Who Needs to be Evaluated Before Beginning Endurance Training.

This figure quotes directly from a consensus conference put on by the National Institutes of Health in 1996 in which many exercise and heart disease experts convened to print consensus statements on physical exercise. According to the above consensus statements, if a 45 year-old man smokes and has high blood pressure, he would need a medical evaluation prior to training because he has “multiple risk factors” for heart disease. If he had only one risk factor he would not have needed an evaluation. More information regarding cardiovascular risk factors is found in Chapter 3, “Heart Disease—Conquering the Leading Killer.”

Years ago, Ellen White recognized the benefits of physical exercise as shown in Figure 14: "More Rust out than Wear Out"50 and Figure 15: Morning Exercise.51

One word of caution: although moderate exercise has clearly emerged as healthful to the immune system, excessive exercise is not. Exercise to the point of complete exhaustion—typical in competitive athletes—can work in the opposite direction by decreasing immune responses.52

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