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Physical Fitness Reduces Chronic Disease Risk

July 08, 2010 | 40,752 views
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Running at the fitness club

Staying in shape may bolster the metabolic profiles of college students. In an epidemiological study, researchers found an association between physical fitness, body fat percentage and metabolic risk factors that are precursors to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers tracked four biomarkers of metabolic risk -- high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides and blood glucose levels.

According to Eurekalert:

“Physical fitness appeared to have a greater impact on certain metabolic risk factors than body fat. Being fit correlated with lower triglycerides and higher HDL ... healthy cholesterol in women and lower blood glucose levels in men.”

Even though more Americans are exercising, rates of obesity and smoking have not changed.  A survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that obesity rates remained at around 28 percent of adults, the same as in 2008.

However, 34.7 percent claimed that they engaged in regular leisure physical activity, up from 31.9 percent in 2008.

Reuters reports:

“Health experts and the U.S. government both recommend getting daily exercise -- about an hour a day of moderate exercise for most adults -- to keep weight off and prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

According to the latest statistics cited above, obesity remains a growing concern in the United States, despite the fact that more people claim to be exercising. I’ll address a potential piece of that puzzle at the end of this article, because HOW you exercise can have a major impact on whether or not you successfully lose weight.

As for overweight children, teens and young adults, it’s important to realize that carrying excess weight early in life increases the number of years they’re exposed to all the health risks associated with obesity. As discussed in a previous article, there are at least 20 serious diseases and health conditions directly attributable to being overweight.

Obese adults tend to have higher rates of high blood pressure, abnormal lipids, cancer and diabetes. And, making matters worse, the vast majority of them are treated with costly and potentially dangerous medications that in no way address the real problems but rather cause further deterioration of health.

As a parent, one of the most valuable gifts you can give your child is to be a role model for a healthy lifestyle and help them achieve optimal health at an early age. This includes eating a healthy diet tailor-made to your individual biochemistry; full of fresh, preferably local, organic foods, and exercising to increase physical fitness.

Keeping Fit Decreases Your Chronic Disease Risk

EurekAlert reports:

“Although cardiovascular disease and diabetes often surface much later in life, our results tell us that men and women in late adolescence and early adulthood are already showing chronic disease risk, but that keeping fit may help reduce this risk," says senior author Jennifer M. Sacheck, PhD, assistant professor at the Friedman School.

"Certain metabolic risk factors were closer to recommended levels in both male and female students whom we classified as fit, even if their body fat percentages were higher than desirable."

Your body is designed to operate best when it’s at an ideal weight, which will vary slightly from person to person. However, carrying around extra pounds will inevitably increase your risk of developing just about every chronic degenerative disease there is, so the idea that you can be significantly overweight and still be in ‘optimal health’ is a deceptive one.

That said, obesity itself is not the underlying cause of any health problem, it’s just another symptom.

Most often, the underlying cause of excess weight is an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, which leads to surging insulin (and leptin) levels that eventually results in insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance is one of the primary causes of a large number of chronic disease states, which is why diet and exercise are such a powerful combination for achieving optimal health.

By improving your physical fitness, you can effectively:

  • Lower your triglyceride levels
  • Increase your levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL)
  • Lower your blood glucose levels
  • Normalize your insulin levels

All of these suggest “metabolic fitness,” which is a cornerstone of optimal health. Even older people who do endurance exercise training end up with metabolically younger hearts.

How Different Types of Body Fat Impacts Your Chronic Disease Risk

Despite all the health risks associated with being overweight, not all types of body fat represent an inherent health problem.

Visceral fat – the fat that gathers around your internal organs in your abdomen – is known to raise your risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease, whereas subcutaneous fat – found just under your skin, which causes dimpling and cellulite – does not.

Recent research has discovered that subcutaneous fat is intrinsically different from visceral fat in several ways, and produces substances that act systemically to actually improve glucose metabolism.

These findings are a perfect reminder that in order to be optimally healthy, you can’t simply focus on one aspect, such as striving to fit into a size 6. You may be healthy at that size, or you might not. There are many unhealthy strategies to lose weight, but they will NOT provide you with the benefit of protecting you against chronic disease…

True health is dependent on a healthy lifestyle, which includes:

  • Exercising properly
  • Eating healthy
  • Avoiding toxic exposures
  • Managing your emotional and mental stress levels, and
  • Sleeping well

Science has shown that good nutrition during childhood can cancel out genetic predispositions to obesity, which is a true testament to the power of your body to be healthy, as long as you give yourself the right raw material. And exercise has even been shown to be a critical part of cancer treatment, again demonstrating that your body is better able to recoup and regenerate if you actually use it.

Exercise: THE Most Important Factor for Optimal Health and Longevity

There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence confirming that physical exercise is the key for disease reduction, optimal mental, emotional and physical health, and longevity.

So, it’s not so surprising to see that this latest study, published in the June issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that physical fitness appears to have a greater impact on certain metabolic risk factors than body fat does.

This echoes previous findings from 2008, which also concluded that fitness is a far better indicator of overall health and longevity than body mass index (BMI).

As stated earlier, one of the primary benefits of exercise is that it normalizes your insulin and leptin levels, with the secondary benefits of weight loss and normalization of blood sugars. These basic factors in turn cascade outward, creating a ripple effect of positive health benefits, which include:

How to Exercise More Efficiency and Effectively to Maximize Results

Now, as mentioned in the beginning, obesity rates have remained the same even though more people claim to be exercising.

Why is that?

Part of the problem may be that a majority of people are not exercising properly, thereby forfeiting some of the weight loss potential.

I recently coined the term “peak fitness” to represent a comprehensive exercise program that includes far more than merely cardio training, which can improve your health in ways you cannot get from typical methods of exercise, including greater weight loss.

While this program still includes some conventional aerobic and core strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching, the major change is that twice a week you do ‘peak exercises,’ which raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a 90-second recovery period.

You repeat this cycle for a total of eight repetitions. These cycles are preceded by a three minute warm up and concluded with a two minute cool down, cutting your total time investment down to a mere 20 minutes.

These peak fitness exercises have the benefit of really boosting your fat metabolism, which may be what’s missing from many people’s routines. But in addition, and perhaps even more importantly, they engage your super fast muscle fibers, which can increase your production of growth hormone.

Human growth hormone (HGH) strongly influences your biological aging process. The higher your levels of growth hormone, the healthier and stronger you're going to be. And the longer you can keep your body producing higher levels of HGH, the longer you will likely experience robust health and strength.

For a more complete, in-depth explanation of my peak fitness regimen, please review this recent article. Implementing peak exercises may be one of the best lifestyle changes you could ever make!