Exercise not only delivers many metabolic benefits – weight loss, cardiovascular efficiency, blood health, avoiding diabetes and stroke – but also helps you age gracefully, avoid falls, depression and dementia, look good, and maintain happiness and healthy sex life!
Diet and exercise have been prescribed many times in the fight against metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Indeed, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) considers exercise vital in managing type 1 diabetes, as there is a proven link between moderate-intensity activity and reduced cardiovascular risk, decreased insulin requirement, and improved quality of life.
The main goal of the exercise is often seen as weight loss or, more specifically, fat loss. This is based on the “calories in against calories out” model, where regular exercise will, of course, increase the latter. However, research has suggested that exercise by itself may not be enough.
But exercise, even without weight loss, will help you live longer, as it lowers the risk of cancer and stroke, supports cardiovascular health, builds stronger muscles, and slows the loss of bone density that age otherwise brings.
Certainly, my pursuit of running has been a major factor in my own journey from a dire physical state earlier in my medical career. Let me share with you some more information about exercise in this blog.
The secret is to find which exercise you enjoy and then stick with it. Heavy breathing and muscle aches are the signs that you are doing yourself good!
Exercise’s benefits for your metabolism
Quite simply, exercise boosts it, enhancing your body’s capacity for converting calories into energy and then burning fat for energy. This benefits your blood pressure, heart rate, body weight and blood fat.
Exercise helps the body to make metabolites, predictive of good health. In one study, 52 soldiers were tested for these metabolites before and after 80 days of muscle strength training and aerobic conditioning. These metabolites included those driving gut function, involved in blood clotting, opening arteries, and increasing blood flow.
The study found that those who did not experience metabolic benefits of exercise had high levels of a metabolite called DMGV. Recent studies found this metabolite rising with sugar drink and falling with vegetables and fibre. High DMGV, therefore, signals the need to reduce vascular risk by means other than exercise.
Exercise helps eliminate waste
The liver is the body’s main filter, but toxins are also eliminated via the kidneys, colon, lungs, skin, and lymphatics. Exercise increases breath rate, blood flow to the skin and sweating. Muscle activity pushes the body’s waste along lymphatics to be excreted. Physical activity, therefore, supports the process of detoxification and the release of toxins.
In increasing your body temperature and making you sweat, you not only cool the skin but also use it – and it is, of course, the largest organ in the human body – to get rid of toxins. According to studies, sweat contains a higher quantity of heavy metals, phthalates, BPA, and PCP than blood, urine, or faeces, so regular exercise significantly reduces body toxins.
Having a higher metabolism helps you to lose weight, keep the weight off, and to have plentiful energy. Your metabolism is simply the set of chemical processes in the body that keep you alive and functioning, for example, converting food into usable energy, breathing, detoxification and body repair.
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) means the total number of calories your body needs to perform basic, life-sustaining functions, your BMR accounting for 80% of your total energy consumption.
Exercise increases muscle and burns fat
High-intensity exercise increases your metabolism and helps you to burn fat. One study in overweight young men reported that 12 weeks of a high-intensity programme reduced fat mass by 4Ibs (2kg) and belly fat by 17%.
Muscles are more metabolically active than fat. More muscle mass means a higher metabolism. This explains why men have more muscle mass, a faster metabolism, stronger bones, and less body fat than women.
The thyroid glands adjust your metabolism, the thyroid hormone having a receptor in every cell. An underactive thyroid slows your metabolism, putting you at risk of metabolic syndrome, whilst an overactive one speeds it up.
Protein has a higher thermal effect of food (TEF) at 15-30% than carbohydrate at 5-10% or fat at 0-3%, thereby accelerating your metabolism for a few hours after each meal that includes it. Drinking a pint of water will also increase it by 10-20% for an hour. Green tea, spices, coconut oil, high in medium-chain fatty acids will do likewise.
Everything improves with exercise………
A key role of exercise is to prevent cardiovascular disease. Compared with other solutions, exercise is low-cost, easily accessible, extremely varied and carries few risks or side effects. Indeed, any level of activity offers a 20% lower risk of mortality, more so if it’s within the national minimum guidelines.
Vigorous to very vigorous exercise, as opposed to moderate, may increase VO2max (the maximum volume of oxygen taken up per minute – an excellent indicator of metabolic health), resulting in greater or comparable benefit to insulin sensitivity and glycaemic control and causing larger decreases in systolic blood pressure.
Exercises that build muscle regulate your blood sugar because muscles consume energy, acting like a sponge to suck any excess.
Exercise improves liver function. Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart, enhancing blood flow to and from the liver. Weight training prevents the build-up of excess body fat that can lead to a fatty liver, a condition known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH.)
………. even your brain health and sex life!
An Australian 2017 study found that exercise – such as on a stationary bike or treadmill, or even walking – slowed brain deterioration and cognitive ageing.
It can also improve your mood, your confidence, and your self-esteem, and even boost your sex life due to these emotional benefits and, physically, improved circulation.
The American Journal of Psychiatry reports that even just one hour of exercise of any intensity each week can help prevent depression. Tracking 33,908 adults over 11 years, they concluded that, regardless of age or gender, even a small amount could help guard against depression.
It has also been suggested that exercise decreases your risk of developing cancer (colon, breast), of dying from cancer, and the risk of cancer returning. This is because exercise, we think, benefits the immune and surveillance systems that detect and kill cancer cells, as well as contributing other cancer-fighting factors such as improved cardio-respiratory status, hormonal profiles, and weight maintenance.
Exercise also benefits your skin, enhancing circulation to supply it with adequate oxygen and nutrients and promoting the elimination of waste products.
Types of exercise
Exercise can vary in activity, variety, intensity, duration, and frequency. Long-distance running and weightlifting recruit very different body systems, delivering different benefits. What is best? As you can imagine, there is lots of evidence pointing in many different directions.
One 2013 American study found that even small amounts of activity — walking whilst on the phone or performing physical jerks during TV commercials – can be just as beneficial as longer sessions, as long as they add up to 30 minutes a day.
150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, with two days of strength training per week, has been found to yield the same health benefits as 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise, with two days of strength training.
Whilst recommendations tend to cite the traditional 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day; new research reports that we can see benefits with shorter bursts of physical activity, with even 15 minutes of high-intensity activity a day kick-starting your metabolic rate, reducing body fat, and increasing muscle mass.
It is common sense that the harder you work, the more calories you burn. You would need to exercise around twice as long at a light-moderate intensity (35% maximum) to burn the same amount as at a very vigorous intensity (85% maximum.)
During vigorous exercise, your body relies on carbohydrate glucose oxidation in the mitochondrial and cytosolic glycolysis. You eventually become entirely reliant upon glucose, with an increasing contribution to energy production from cytosolic glycolysis. This is your anaerobic threshold. The exercise above this threshold is hard and cannot be sustained for long. So, whilst you may be burning more calories, you cannot exercise for as long.
By contrast, if you exercise moderately (relying on a mixture of fat and carbohydrate as substrates), you endure longer to burn the same number of calories. So, both longer, easier sessions and shorter, harder ones seem to be similarly effective in reducing body fat.
Current NHS guidelines suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic per week, plus muscle-strengthening (resistance training) by lifting weights. Increasing skeletal muscle mass (or maintaining it as we get older) is crucial for metabolic health due to its prominent role in determining BMR. Bone health is enhanced by activities such as carrying heavy shopping or children or digging in the garden.
Exercise is indeed a miracle drug that can transform your physical, mental, and spiritual health. There are almost too many benefits to list here!
Exercise is low-cost, freely available and comes in many forms – there’s something for everyone. So, my friends, please do get up, get out and get moving – and you will enjoy a great quality of life for many more years.
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