Physical activity vs lifestyle diseases

Probably everyone has heard a thousand times that “sport is health”, but have any of you ever wondered whether you can fight diseases with movement?

Living in the age of the pandemic, however, we should not forget about chronic diseases that usually appear as the result of an unhealthy diet or a lack of exercise.

Many of us work in a seated position, and due to the overload of duties or simply laziness, we often forget to provide our body with the necessary stimulus, which is movement. In this article, based on scientific research, I will show you how physical activity positively affects longevity, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Let’s get started!

Longevity

The first study that attracts attention was conducted on almost 17,000 men aged 35-74 and showed that various types of physical activity (> 2000kcal / week) were able to extend their lives on average by 1-2 years10.

Other research has shown that continuous physical activity reduces the susceptibility to death due to health reasons by over 50% 11. In terms of the number of calories burned, as little as 1000kcal / week reduces the risk of death by 20%.

The proof of how weak our bodies are when we are very little physically active is another study which says that middle-aged women active <1h / week were 52% more likely to suffer from all-cause death, twice as often they died from cardiovascular disease and were 29% more susceptible to cancer mortality 12.

Yet another research project, which measurement tool was the exercise test, showed that over the course of 5 years people who became physically active reduced their risk of death by 44% compared to those who were physically inactive13. Simple math: lack of activity = shorter life.

Heart diseases

Heart diseases are the world’s leading cause of death. And one of the best tools for improving cardiovascular fitness is definitely sport. A meta-analysis of 48 randomized trials confirmed that exercise-based rehabilitation has a positive effect14.

Of course, the very concept of being physically active is quite a subjective statement, so let’s focus on what it looks like in terms of calories burned. To improve the efficiency of the respiratory and circulatory system, we need about 1400kcal / week burned during training, to stop the progression of atherosclerotic changes 1533kcal (+/- 122) / week, and to eliminate the already existing changes, we need about 2200kcal / week15. Depending on the intensity of exercise and the weight of a given person, during an hour of strength training, we can burn from about 200 to 500 kcal.

Diabetes

As you know, diabetes is another quite common disease. It has even gained the title of the world’s first non-infectious epidemic, so it certainly cannot be underestimated. As reported by the National Health Organization at the turn of 1980-2014, the number of diabetes cases in adults increased from 4.7% to 8.5%, and unfortunately, the number of patients is still growing. Diabetes goes hand in hand with obesity – the more body fat, the less insulin sensitivity and therefore susceptibility to higher blood sugar levels. Normal body fat content is up to 20% of body weight in men and up to 30% in women.

In the fight against this disease, the diet probably brings the most beneficial effects, but research has confirmed that regular training also reduces blood glucose levels. A meta-analysis of 37 studies involving 2,208 patients with type 2 diabetes showed a relationship between the disease and aerobic/endurance training, so the level of HbA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin) was lower by 0.30% compared to physically inactive people, while the level of glucose in FPG (Fasting Plasma Glucose) was as much as 9.38 mg/dl lower in the group that was training regularly16.

Osteoporosis

Regarding the skeletal system, the anatomical adaptation of our body caused by regular training causes an increase in bone density. All this is due to the greater mineral requirements in our bodies when we stimulate them through exercise. Mobile bones are healthy bones, so training is also one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis. The International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that globally 1 in 3 women after the age of 50 will struggle with this disease. In the case of men, the result is slightly better, but it is still predicted that 1 in 5 of us will encounter this problem at the end of adulthood.

One study in postmenopausal women showed improvement in many aspects of health after a 2-year period of intense training. In the case of bone mineral density in the lumbar spine, it increased by 0.7% in the active group, while in the physically inactive people it decreased by 2.3%17.

But sometimes it doesn’t really take much to prevent serious injury, and an example of this is a study in which the author decided to show the relationship between physical activity and the risk of hip fracture in men in their 50s. After over 24-year observation of 36 thousand participants, it was concluded that the simplest form of movement, which is walking, was able to prevent this. The risk of fracture was lower by as much as 44% in people who walked 6h/week compared to those walking only 1h/week. In addition, a faster pace of walking brought relatively better results18.

Summary

Exercise can be a key factor in preventing many health problems. You do not need to be a professional in any discipline to simply take care of your health, and you just need to start with the simplest forms of activity.

Take a friend or turn on a good podcast and go for a walk or jog to the park and see how you feel after coming back. And do not perceive the benefits of physical activity only through the prism of the build, but also keep in mind the vitality of the bloodstream, bones, and all internal organs.

Let the scientific evidence I presented in this article be both a warning and a motivation for those of you who tend to forget how important movement is to our body.

References

  1. Paffenbarger et al. (Harvard Alumni Health Study), Physical Activity, All-Cause Mortality, and Longevity of College Alumni, 1986.
  2. Myers et al., Fitness versus physical activity patterns in predicting mortality in men, 2004.
  3. Hu FB et al., Adiposity as compared with physical activity in predicting mortality among women, 2004.
  4. Blair SN et al., Changes in physical fitness and all-cause mortality. A prospective study of healthy and unhealthy men, 1995.
  5. Tylor RS et al., Exercise-based rehabilitation for patients with coronary heart disease: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, 2004.
  6. Hambrecht R et al., Various intensities of leisure time physical activity in patients with coronary artery disease: effects on cardiorespiratory fitness and progression of coronary atherosclerotic lesions., 1993.
  7. Pan B et al., Exercise training modalities in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and network meta-analysis, 2018.
  8. Kemmler W et al., Benefits of 2 years of intense exercise on bone density, physical fitness, and blood lipids in early postmenopausal osteopenic women: results of the Erlangen Fitness Osteoporosis Prevention Study (EFOPS), 2004.
  9. Feskanich D et al., Physical Activity and Inactivity and Risk of Hip Fractures in Men, 2014.
  10. Paffenbarger et al. (Harvard Alumni Health Study), Physical Activity, All-Cause Mortality, and Longevity of College Alumni, 1986.
  11. Myers et al., Fitness versus physical activity patterns in predicting mortality in men, 2004.
  12. Hu FB et al., Adiposity as compared with physical activity in predicting mortality among women, 2004.
  13. Blair SN et al., Changes in physical fitness and all-cause mortality. A prospective study of healthy and unhealthy men, 1995.
  14. Tylor RS et al., Exercise-based rehabilitation for patients with coronary heart disease: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, 2004.
  15. Hambrecht R et al., Various intensities of leisure time physical activity in patients with coronary artery disease: effects on cardiorespiratory fitness and progression of coronary atherosclerotic lesions., 1993.
  16. Pan B et al., Exercise training modalities in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and network meta-analysis, 2018.
  17. Kemmler W et al., Benefits of 2 years of intense exercise on bone density, physical fitness, and blood lipids in early postmenopausal osteopenic women: results of the Erlangen Fitness Osteoporosis Prevention Study (EFOPS), 2004.
  18. Feskanich D et al., Physical Activity and Inactivity and Risk of Hip Fractures in Men, 2014.

6 thoughts on “Physical activity vs lifestyle diseases”

  1. Very interesting findings! Health is a life-long route, needs dedication but the best thing is that it is easy and accessible to anyone.
    Thank you for sharing all this information in a scientific-based and motivational way 💪🏼 We definitely need more of this!
    Keep up with the great work! ❤️

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