11 Dec ‘Tis the season—to exercise
By Caleb Terray, Master Instructor
“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
As 2019 sprints to the finish line later this month, it’s very easy to become distracted by the exigencies of the season and forget to prioritize one’s own well-being in the mad rush to spread some festive holiday cheer to others. Carving out the time for our weekly training sessions just becomes increasingly challenging as we hurtle toward the holidays with so many demands on our precious time! However, considering that the cold and flu season is also in full swing, this certainly isn’t a low-risk time of year to compromise a healthy habits regimen. As such it behooves me—charitable coach that I am—to write a friendly reminder about the incomparable wellness benefits of staying active this December.
The World Health Organization and U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises most adults to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and twice-weekly strength training sessions! Although we should all know by now that maintaining a healthy body composition is an obvious benefit of regular exercise, but there are some other surprising side effects that your hard work in the gym is providing you that are worthy of considering whenever you are tempted to put off a training session.
It actually keeps us young!
Research now shows that exercise can slow down the aging process at the cellular level! When the body ages and new cells need to be created by cellular division, our DNA is copied from cell to cell and the sections of chromosomes get shorter in the process. Shorter telomeres, the end-caps of our chromosomes, mean older cells. Researchers have recently discovered a compound called “nuclear respiratory factor 1” (or NRF1) that protects 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!
It staves off depression, improves memory, and increases our capacity to learn!
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 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; 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.
Who doesn’t appreciate more beautiful skin?
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.
Build up that bone density!
Resistance training or strength training causes our muscles to contract while under exertion. This load-bearing work puts a bit of positive pressure on our bones and promotes yet another wonderful recovery adaptation to make them denser. That’s in addition to causing more growth of beautiful lean muscle tissues too!
Now, having read my gentle reminder this far, how can you resist the temptation to get some high quality movement practice back into your schedule this week? It makes me want to fit some bonus training in right now even though I should be feeling at least a little tired from my heavy barbell session for the day. Must be all that science-y stuff we just talked about working on my behalf, eh!
A variety strength practice with the ProBar; a few single leg deadlifts, prone presses and loaded pistol squats might be just the thing. Although about half of all Americans (and transplanted Canadians like me) actually meet the recommendations for aerobic physical activity, only 20% also do any strength training. Just 20%?! Perish the thought! At ProBar we want to be a part of the vanguard that changes this statistic.
So I invite you 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 and increase your bone density.
It’s pretty hard to find a pill, supplement or “cleanse” that can boast all these benefits.