The Powerful Effects of Exercise
by David Dunaief
Dec 09, 2020 | 6196 views | 0 0 comments | 755 755 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. David Dunaief is located in Downtown Brooklyn and focuses on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.
Dr. David Dunaief is located in Downtown Brooklyn and focuses on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.
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Compelling studies show exercise’s powerful effects in altering our genes and its impact on specific diseases, such as diabetes, kidney stones, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease and breast, colorectal and endometrial cancers.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to motivate yourself during exercise. One study showed that those who repeated positive mantras like “feels good” while exercising were able to persist in their exercise routines for longer periods.

Why am I harping on exercise during the holidays? Because we are too sedentary, and this is the time of the year when we are inclined to overeat. According to data from the 2015-2016 National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey, we spend 6.4 hours a day sedentary.

Exercise and genes

In a study, results showed that thousands upon thousands of genes in fat cells were affected when participants exercised. The study involved sedentary men and asked them to exercise twice a week at a one-hour spin class.

According to the researchers, the genes impacted were those involved most likely in storing fat and in risk for subsequent diabetes and obesity development. Participants’ gene expression was altered by DNA methylation, the addition of a methyl group made up of a carbon and hydrogens.

These participants also improved their biometrics, reducing fat and subsequently shrinking their waist circumferences, and improved their cholesterol and blood-pressure indices.

The effect is referred to as epigenetics, where lifestyle modifications can ultimately lead to changes in gene expression, turning them on and off.

This has been shown with dietary changes, but this is one of the first studies to show that exercise also has significant genetic impacts. It took only six months to see these numerous gene changes with modest cardiovascular exercise.

Exercise versus drug therapy

We don’t think of exercise as being a drug, but what if it had similar benefits to certain drugs in cardiovascular diseases and mortality risk?

A meta-analysis — a group of 57 studies that involved drugs and exercise — showed that exercise potentially has equivalent effects to statins in terms of mortality with secondary prevention of coronary heart disease.

This means that, in patients who already have heart disease, both statins and exercise reduce the risk of mortality by similar amounts. The same was true with pre-diabetes and the use of metformin versus exercise. It didn’t matter which one was used, the drug or the lifestyle change.

Don’t change your medication without consulting your physician.

Sex as exercise

We have heard that sex may be thought of as exercise, but is there actual evidence? Try to keep a straight face.

Well, it turns out this may be true. In a study published in the PLoS One journal, researchers found that young healthy couples exert 6 METs — metabolic energy, or the amount of oxygen consumed per kilogram per minute — during sexual activity.

How does this compare to other activities? Well, we exert about 1 MET while sitting and 8.5 METs while jogging. Sexual activity falls between walking and jogging, in terms of the energy utilized, and thus may be qualified as moderate activity.

Men and women burned slightly less than half as many calories with sex as with jogging, burning a mean of 85 calories over about 25 minutes. Who says exercise can’t be fun?

I can’t stress the importance of exercise enough. It not only influences the way you feel, but also may influence gene expression and, ultimately, affects the development and prevention of disease.

In certain circumstances, it may be as powerful as drugs and, in combination, may pack a powerful punch.

Therefore, make exercise a priority — part of the fabric of your life. It may already be impacting the fabric of your body: your genes.
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