"If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.” - Mark Tarnopolsky, Genetic Metabolic Neurologist, McMaster University
I know that I’ve shared this quote before, but I don’t know if it has ever hit home quite as hard as it does now. It is somewhat perplexing that the benefits of exercise are getting almost no press especially in relationship to COVID-19, which is still a fairly hot topic around the world. When we consider just how much is regularly publicized about vaccines and anti-virals, it is appalling that it requires an active search to discover the results of the latest research on the merits of exercise in the context of the pandemic. The outcome of a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine is not surprising, but it’s lack of attention is. The study concluded that:
"There were protective associations of physical activity for adverse COVID-19 outcomes across demographic and clinical characteristics. Public health leaders should add physical activity to pandemic control strategies..”
Whoa! Take all that in. Exercise benefits everyone; all age groups, ethnicities or any other demographic delineation. Then there's that last bit. The bit about how public health authorities “should” incorporate physical activity into COVID mitigation strategies! As a business owner still working to regain the public’s trust from being part of an industry that was locked down for months and heavily restricted by local public health authorities upon re-opening, it’s a bit galling to hear that scientific research continues to prove something that fitness industry experts suspected all along; we are allied with (if not directly part of) the healthcare community in the fight against this virus and a long list of other physical challenges. I’m not going to go on about this for too much longer because I suspect that if you’re reading this, you are the proverbial choir and I’m just preaching at you, but consider the following results from this recent study:
Participants who engaged in just “some” form of physical activity showed 43% greater odds of hospitalization, 83% higher odds of deterioration events, and 92% greater odds of death as compared to those in the “always active" category.
Participants categorized as "consistently not active" had 91% higher hospitalization odds, 139% higher deterioration event odds, and 291% higher death odds when once again compared to the "always active" individuals.
Given these results, you would think that a massive effort would be underway to get as many of us as possible into the “always active” category as soon as possible! A “workout” here or there just isn’t enough to see the greatest benefit, as it pertains to our immune response or any other aspect of our physical health. This is why at Breakthrough we seek to promote an overall active lifestyle that includes strength training, endurance training, recovery activities and participation in active recreation. Of course there are lots of benefits of exercise aside from boosting the immune system:
Moving some weight will build stronger bones.
For those who seek out this kind of information, the World Health Organization and U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention does, at least, advise most adults to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and (here comes my favorite advice) twice weekly strength training sessions! Resistance training, causes our muscles to contract while under load. This load-bearing work puts a bit of positive pressure on our bones and promotes a wonderful recovery adaptation to make them more dense. Greater bone density makes us less fragile and vulnerable to fractures, of course, but it also improves our posture and increases our work capacity. Resistance training promotes more growth of beautiful, functional, lean muscle tissues too, which are useful for just about everything we do. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, prioritize strength training and you’ll get better at almost anything, even bone density tests.
Training slows down the effects of Father Time
New research also shows that exercise slows down the aging process at the cellular level. As the body ages, new cells are created by cellular division so our DNA is copied from cell to cell. During this process, sections of our chromosomes get shorter. Scientists have observed shorter telomeres, the end-caps of our chromosomes, in older cells. But researchers have recently discovered a compound called “nuclear respiratory factor 1” (or NRF1) that actually protects our telomeres from getting shorter. You can think of NRF1 as a protective coat of varnish. Bouts of moderate exercise cause the NRF1 coating to renew the protection on our telomeres, keeping them from getting shorter; effectively slowing down the aging of our cells.
We’re only ever a training session away from feeling better.
One of my mentors, the great Alwyn Cosgrove, likes to remind us of this whenever we’re feeling down. Although the specific reasons why we reap these benefits are still the subject of continued research, we do know that the increased blood flow to the brain during exercise promotes the creation of new blood vessels and stimulates a release of chemicals that help reduce pain and brighten up our moods. This is likely a part of the human being’s amazing arsenal of survival-based adaptations (like those described above in relation to our immune response) some of which can only triggered by intense physical activity. The activity mobilizes our chemical resources for recovery, thereby constructing a better adapted organism to tolerate such activity in the future. In effect, we stimulate our own internal powerhouse to build an even better surviving version of ourselves. By increasing the blood flow to the skin (the biggest or our body’s amazing organs), exercise helps us get a fresh delivery of nutrients to the epidermis. These nutrients help us to heal from wear and tear and wounds much faster. So weather it’s for the brain, bones, immune system or skin, a training session carries the elixir we’re looking for.
Now consider that only about half of all Americans actually meet the recommendations for aerobic physical activity, and only 20% also do any strength training. Just 20%?! At Breakthrough Strength & Fitness we want to be a part of the vanguard that changes this statistic. So I invite you, dear readers, to spread the word that a consistent exercise regimen, and especially one that includes strength training, will help keep you young, fight depression, improve your memory, help you learn new skills, beautify your skin, increase your bone density and make you far more resistant to the effects of COVID-19. It’s impossible to find a drug, supplement, “cleanse” or anything else that can boast all those benefits, so we'll see in the gym for the best medicine of all; training!