LOOKING AFTER BODY AND SOUL
By Nutrition Expert
Friday, April 16, 2010.
Exercise is good for the mind and good for the body. It sharpens the mind and it boosts mood. It provides energy and a sense of mastery. It improves the quality of your sleep so you wake up feeling better rested. It keeps the heart and blood vessels in good working order. It protects against such common conditions as diabetes. It is invaluable in weight control. Now comes some more good news. Intense exercise may curb your sweet tooth. Animal studies show that exercise decreases preference for sweetness.
Scientists aren’t sure why exercise has this effect. It may be that intense activity revs up endorphins and related substances in your brain, and that powerfully positive blast of pleasure might decrease the need for satisfying food.
The danger for athletes is that such an effect might keep them from consuming enough food to replace calories lost in exertion. But most of us have no such problem.
But wait: there’s even more good news. Long-term exercise improves your immune system. With 30 minutes of exercise a day, three times a week, adults strengthened not only their muscles but the immune system’s first line of defence against virus infection. Blood tests showed them to have more active natural killer cells.
They had no such boost in immune function if they exercised for only three months. It took 11 months of working out to impact the immune system. The results were especially important because the exercisers were all older adults. The researchers say the study demonstrates how a little exercise can help people maintain health and independence with advancing age.
And that leads directly to some other new findings. Working out is great, but when you stop doing it, you lose the benefits. As the saying goes, use it or lose it. When you stop exercising, you lose not only the physical benefits but the psychological benefits as well.
In this case, researchers looked at adults with lung disease and found that after just 10 weeks of exercising - doing aerobic workouts, strength training and stretching three times a week - there were significant gains mentally as well as physically. Exercisers boosted high-level cognitive abilities and were better able to maintain trains of thought. They also showed fewer signs of depression and anxiety.
If they kept on exercising, they maintained the benefits, but there were no subsequent gains in mental or physical function even if they kept up the good work for a year. There comes a point where the gains max out.
However, those who stopped exercising all returned to their original, pre-study level of functioning. They lost all they had gained. No matter what, you just have to keep up the physical activity to get the benefits.
And don’t expect a single bout of exercise to do much good, at least for your sleep. If exercise isn’t habitual, a single period of exertion - whether it’s aerobic exercise or resistance-type exercise - can actually disrupt your sleep. If losing weight is one of the benefits you seek, then studies show your exercise has to consist of aerobic and calorie-burning activities, such as walking, jogging, swimming or bicycle riding. Weight training offers many benefits - building muscle and strength, boosting immunity and reducing the risk of lower back injury.
So get the habit. Choose an activity you like and one you can keep on doing. And just keep on going at a nice steady pace.