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Why Exercise?

Written by:

Reviewed for medical accuracy by:

Added to knowledge base:

Prabhat Bhama

Arno Kumagai, M.D.
Dept. of Internal Medicine


UM Medical School

Ameed Raoof, M.D., Ph.D.
Dept. of Anatomy





Obesity in the United States has reached epidemic proportions, largely attributable to lack of physical activity, fast food, and the popularity of television. Unfortunately, many people who have the motivation to start becoming physically active and eat healthy are flooded by a substantial amount of information regarding dieting, exercise, and nutritional supplementation. These advertisements can be seen on all forms of media: television, magazines, newspapers, the radio, and at shopping centers. Although much of this information can be helpful to the aspiring fitness buff, much of it is confusing, and often times misleading.

MedFitness hopes to help establish general guidelines for fitness and nutrition using simple, common sense techniques that are medically supported. We would like to stress that mental health and physical fitness are not achieved by fad diets, but by lifestyle changes. Furthermore, in most cases, these changes should be gradual to ensure long-term efficacy and safety. So, if you are just beginning a fitness regimen, remember to start slowly, find a support group, and keep realistic goals. And, as always, please consult your physician prior to commencing any workout routine or nutritional plan.

For those of you who are still unsure about how physical activity and proper nutrition could benefit you, please read on

Dr. Kim A. Eagle, Clinical Director of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center notes: We estimate that with effective preventative measures, 50% or more of the cardiovascular events today could either be prevented or at least delayed by years. Maintaining physical fitness, attaining an ideal body weight with a heart sensitive diet, taking the right medications, and undergoing periodic screening for patients at risk for cardiovascular diseases all represent important goals for Michiganians. (Contributed by Marlon Shell, M2)

Not only does physical activity help delay the onset of cardiovascular disease, but it also helps to sensitize peripheral tissues to insulin, thereby preventing (or even attenuating) the effects of Type II (Non-Insulin Dependent) Diabetes Mellitus1,2. In fact, individuals who make physical activity a regular part of their lives typically have a 20-30% greater rate of insulin-stimulated glucose disposal than sedentary individuals3.

For individuals who work under high-stress conditions, exercise provides the perfect outlet for stress relief. Furthermore, physical activity can even people by maintaining and strengthening their brain. Some studies have shown that exercise increases the transcription of hippocampal Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a substance that plays a role in maintaining cerebral synapses (the interconnectivity of brain cells). BDNF has also been shown to play a role in the treatment of depression. Interestingly, exercise and anti-depressant medications have a similar effect on BDNF expression, indicating that exercise has many psychological benefits as well4.

According to the American Council on Exericise (www.acefitness.org), individuals who exercise regularly are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight, maintain lean muscle, have higher levels of self-esteem and self-confidence, continue to perform activities of daily living as they grow older, and are less likely to develop a slew of diseases related to obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

So now that the benefits of exercise are a bit clearer, its time to decide how to start. Its essential to start slowly to prevent injury. Furthermore, its important to set goals and keep them in mind during your exercise regimen. As far as time commitment, many health specialists recommend that most adults participate in 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity at least four days per week.

For more details on exercising and nutrition, please visit the University of Michigan Health System website (www.med.umich.edu). The MedFitness website will be up and running soon to provide you with more details on physical fitness, mental well-being, and nutrition. Although this issue is primarily concerned with the fundamentals of fitness and nutrition, future issues will provide additional information on establishing a successful exercise routine and making the right choices when it comes to food. We hope to address issues pertinent to Complementary and Alternative Medicine as well, so keep your eyes open. Please feel free to e-mail us with any comments or questions, and best of luck with your workouts!



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