Thursday, September 5, 2013

Health Benefits of Exercise

Have you been exercising as much as you should? There really is a use it or lose it calculus that applies to the human body, regardless of gender or age. It's unfortunate to look around as I often do in the great state of Michigan and see people that are not using what God or evolution gave them to the best of their ability. It's like seeing someone with a brand new car treat it like garbage. This is obviously particularly noticeable in the summertime. Clothing gets skimpier but fat rolls become more apparent.

It's easy unfortunately to get so caught up in other things and leave your body to the last. Of course there are a million and one reasons behind this. These reasons can be emotional, psychological, sexual, what have you. Not everyone is meant to be a certain size of course and no one should be shamed into thinking that they're automatically less than human because they are over a certain weight. That sort of thinking is short-sighted and ugly. That said I sometimes wonder if certain heavy people these days don't go too far in denying that they have a problem. Some even attempt to bully other people into saying that morbid obesity is somehow attractive. Morbid obesity isn't attractive. And it's associated with a higher risk for a number of dangerous conditions and diseases.

Exercise and diet are really important in not only extending your life but making sure that the life you have is worth living long into the future. We're still learning a lot about how diet and exercise work on the body. That's why I thought this recent NYT article was so interesting.
Exercise promotes health, reducing most people’s risks of developing diabetes and growing obese. But just how, at a cellular level, exercise performs this beneficial magic — what physiological steps are involved and in what order — remains mysterious to a surprising degree.
Several striking new studies, however, provide some clarity by showing that exercise seems able to drastically alter how genes operate. Genes are, of course, not static. They turn on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from elsewhere in the body. When they are turned on, genes express various proteins that, in turn, prompt a range of physiological actions in the body.
One powerful means of affecting gene activity involves a process called methylation, in which methyl groups, a cluster of carbon and hydrogen atoms, attach to the outside of a gene and make it easier or harder for that gene to receive and respond to messages from the body. In this way, the behavior of the gene is changed, but not the fundamental structure of the gene itself. Remarkably, these methylation patterns can be passed on to offspring – a phenomenon known as epigenetics.
What is particularly fascinating about the methylation process is that it seems to be driven largely by how you live your life. Many recent studies have found that diet, for instance, notably affects the methylation of genes, and scientists working in this area suspect that differing genetic methylation patterns resulting from differing diets may partly determine whether someone develops diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
But the role of physical activity in gene methylation has been poorly understood, even though exercise, like diet, greatly changes the body. So several groups of scientists recently set out to determine what working out does to the exterior of our genes. The answer, their recently published results show, is plenty. ..“Our data suggest that exercise may affect the risk for Type 2 diabetes and obesity by changing DNA methylation of those genes,” says Charlotte Ling, an associate professor at Lund University and senior author of the study.
So there you have it. It's important to exercise. I already knew that. But the idea that you can make genetic changes in yourself and possibly pass these changes along to the next generation was something I did not know. I'm not a scientist but I was fascinated by how some common sense admonitions (get off your a$$ and jam!!!) are backed up by science. I intend to refocus and expand my exercise program over the next few weeks. We don't have a choice in the particular genetic gifts or curses our parents granted us. But to the extent that some of what your parents gave you is negative you can overcome that inheritance by eating well and exercising. So just because say diabetes or hypertension runs in your family doesn't mean that you are doomed to acquire those conditions or that if you do you must have a shortened and less pleasant life. You, all by yourself, have the power to change your body and more importantly, change your health. That's pretty awesome. With changes in the health care system making it more explicit that to an extent, we are all our brothers' and sisters' keepers, I expect that insurance "incentives" to exercise will become a bit more shall we say noticeable.

How often do you exercise?

Have there been times when you've stopped exercising? 

If you don't exercise do you intend to start?

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