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In line with the type of information on natural health that we want to publish on this blog, we have borrowed an article from the kinesiologist David Liira that appears on his blog

Look up ‘Anti-Aging Pills’ on the internet. You’ll quickly discover that the pill that could change the future of aging is “right around the corner”. While it’s clear that the legitimacy of these medications is gravely in question, that’s not the point here. What we should be questioning, is why this market has gotten so huge in the first place.

People are craving solutions to healthy aging, but are they looking in the right places?

In the 21st century, it’s common knowledge that running can improve one’s health and overall wellbeing. What’s less associated with aerobic exercise, however, is its salient role in numerous aspects of healthy aging. Other modalities, such as pharmaceuticals and beauty products, are frequently prioritized in this field, despite their alarming side effects and high price tags.

It’s no secret that we’re a pill-dependent society. In America, the average senior takes four medications per day. This has more than double since 1988. A major reason for this trend has to do with the rise of chronic disease among older adults. Here are a few alarming facts from the National Council on Aging:

Approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. Four chronic diseases — heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes — cause almost two-thirds of all deaths each year.

And worst of all…

Chronic diseases account for 75% of the money our nation spends on health care, yet only 1% of health dollars are spent on public efforts to improve overall health.

Our approach to healthy aging is completely backward. We’re trying to combat poor lifestyle choices with pills and treatments as opposed to educating adults (and youth) on primary prevention.

Exercise should be the number one building block to starting that wall, yet it’s still greatly underutilized as a health care modality. Aerobic activity goes far beyond ‘anti-aging’ (preventing the appearance of getting older), allowing an individual to improve a plethora of health indicators, from insulin control to emotional regulation.

1) It Prevents Chronic Disease.

Chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, are the leading killers in Westernized society. Fortunately, exercise can play both a prevention and recovery role in these areas.

First off, aerobic activity helps to strengthen immunity. Bogdanis et al. prove that those who are of a ‘fit’ status demonstrate lower levels of inflammation and respond better to infection. This is due to exercise’s role in boosting the first and second lines of defense.

Exercise improves the antipathogen activity of tissue macrophages in parallel with an enhanced recirculation of immunoglobulins, anti-inflammatory cytokines, neutrophils, NK cells, cytotoxic T cells, and immature B cells. — Nieman & Wentz

Aerobic activity will also enhance insulin control, reducing the risk for diabetes, and improving the clinical outcomes of those already diagnosed. This is a win-win as diabetes is associated with a 65% higher risk for developing dementia.

From a cardiovascular standpoint, exercise will greatly reduce the prevalence of heart disease. It can lower body weight, blood pressure, and bad (LDL) cholesterol, all while increasing good (HDL) cholesterol and insulin sensitivity. Aerobic activity can also boost the signaling protein VEGF, building new blood vessels that will further reduce disease risk.

Exercise can be an effective primary prevention method for healthy individuals, and a potent tertiary prevention method for those with chronic disease.

2) It Maintains Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).

Achieving functional activity is an essential part of maintaining independence in the elder years. Dependence on others to complete ADLs is a top risk factor of long-term nursing home placement, leading to a spiral of sedentary behavior and the acquisition of disease.

By participating in consistent aerobic activity, older adults can improve cardiopulmonary endurance and vigor, preserving their ability to walk to the grocery store, or play with the grandkids. Other benefits include a healthier range of motion, maintenance of bone mineral density, and balance.

This goes far beyond the ability to complete daily tasks too. A major link to sedentary behavior and disease within the elderly is apathy. In retirement, older adults will naturally begin to move less due to reduced accountability and structure in life. Physical activity can form a daily routine and social outlet to ameliorate these issues.

3) It Boosts Mental Health and Acuity.

Many older adults report feeling of loneliness and depression due to adjustments to new living situations, and poor health. Physical activity can be a powerful outlet to rally dopamine which in turn boosts the reward and motivation systems — restoring purpose and verve to life. Additionally, exercise increases blood circulation to the brain, improves the function of the HPA axis (stress pathway), and calms the amygdala, the fear center of the brain.

“Exercise is better than Zoloft at keeping people from relapsing from depression.” — John Ratey, M.D.

Furthermore, ‘happy brain chemicals’ such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin have all been proven to increase after a bout of physical activity. This will enhance emotional regulation and improve one’s wellbeing.

Exercise keeps older adults smart too. Moderate to vigorous activity boosts the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Not only does BDNF help neurons mature and survive, but it has a primary role in neuroplasticity and the enhancement of learning and memory.

There are few corners of the human body that exercise cannot aid. Due to the overwhelming evidence of its key role in the maintenance of health with aging, it should be the number one prescribed ‘medication’ in every hospital, clinic, and gym.

We’ve been culturally wired to seek pills and treatment. With the statistics soaring around chronic disease prevalence and health care costs, it’s time to question the efficacy of our current health model.

Aerobic exercise (of any kind) is the key ingredient to building a culture of primary prevention. One that achieves longevity and wellbeing, deep into the later years of life. Pair it with proper nutrition, sleep hygiene, and mindfulness, and we can start to release our shackles on the health care system and foster an environment of robust, active living.

Exercise is medicine, my friends.

This is a copy from an article by David Liira, Kinesiologist from British Columbia. He also has a blog about health issues:

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