We all know that staying physically active is good for health. Regular exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight, since obesity is a risk factor for many diseases, particularly heart disease and cancer. But, if most of us know exercise is healthy, then why can it be so darn difficult to stick with an exercise plan? Well, for one, even though we cerebrally know that exercise is good, there can be significant challenges in starting up and adhering to an exercise regimen. There are often time constraints. You may be confused about where to start, in what type of activity to engage, at what intensity level, and for how long. But if you do stick to it, exercise can have incredible health benefits and can truly be the single most effective way to improve your overall health.

It’s good for your brain!

Research shows that exercise is important in maintaining brain health. Not only does it prevent cognitive decline; it also improves dementia.[5] The adage “it’s never too late” definitely rings true with exercise. The reason exercise is so good for the brain is primarily due to improved blood flow and metabolism. Just like all tissue in the body, the brain needs oxygen. Better blood flow delivers that oxygen. Also, when we exercise, the body shifts from using glucose to ketones as energy. Ketones are used efficiently by the brain and are protective to the brain.[1]

Many of us work with our healthcare team to monitor lipids, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Exercise significantly reduces all of these.[3] It is literally a “cure-all”. In fact, an exercise regimen can be considered a first-line approach to help manage type II diabetes. Aerobic exercise and resistance training can effectively decrease insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome scores in addition to lowering triglycerides, VLDL (“bad cholesterol”), and reducing fat mass.[4]

How much exercise is the right amount?

The standard recommendation is at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, 5 times per week. Moderate intensity is defined as 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. To calculate your max heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, the maximum heart rate for a 60 year-old is calculated to be 160 beats per minute. In the case of this 60 year-old, moderate intensity exercise would be at a heart rate of 80-112 beats per minute. Depending on your goals, individual health conditions and exercise tolerance, exercising at a high intensity may also be appropriate, even approaching your max heart rate. Always consult a physician before starting any exercise program.   

Don’t have time to exercise?

Not a problem. Even short durations of exercise with intervals of high intensity have been shown to be just as effective as continuous intensity exercise for longer duration. In the example of one study, 9 minutes of moderate intensity exercise with three intervals of “going all out” high intensity of 20 seconds during each interval had the same benefit as 45 minutes of continuous moderate intensity exercise.[2] So, if you want to save time but still get the same workout, go for intervals!

Regarding making time for exercise, I have found that I have been able to stick to my exercise program much more closely when I planned it in my schedule, along with my other planned activities.

Additional helpful tips to ensure exercise success:

  • Find an exercise partner (such as a spouse or friend) to keep each other accountable and motivated.
  • Engage in an activity you truly enjoy that gets your heart rate up. The options are limitless!
  • Partner with a healthcare provider, who can track your progress with labs including hsCRP, lipids, glucose, insulin, as well as monitor your BP and resting pulse readings. Some physicians also use tools such as Bioimpedance Analyses (to monitor body fat, muscle mass, etc.)- at Reboot Center the BIA is a cornerstone of every patient’s exercise program. The data points collected via blood draws and other tests can help keep you motivated and on track towards reaching your goal.

And now, lace up and enjoy the benefits!

 

Resources:

  1. Cunnane SC, Courchesne-Loyer A, St-pierre V, et al. Can ketones compensate for deteriorating brain glucose uptake during aging? Implications for the risk and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016;1367(1):12-20.
  2. Gillen JB, Martin BJ, Macinnis MJ, Skelly LE, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ. Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(4):e0154075.
  3. Lackland DT, Voeks JH. Metabolic syndrome and hypertension: regular exercise as part of lifestyle management. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2014;16(11):492.
  4. Muniyappa R, Lee S, Chen H, Quon MJ. Current approaches for assessing insulin sensitivity and resistance in vivo: advantages, limitations, and appropriate usage. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2008 Jan;294(1):E15-26.
  5. Northey JM, Cherbuin N, Pumpa KL, Smee DJ, Rattray B. Exercise interventions for cognitive function in adults older than 50: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(3):154-160.