We have heard it a bunch of times and from different sources “movement is life”. Without movement we grow old faster, losing viral functions and become more susceptible to various illnesses. I always say that if I can only make a pill out of movement, it would be the most effective medicine in the world, but unfortunately, there is no pill replacing our body’s moves.
I found that many of my patients find it motivating to understand the reason why it is so beneficial to move. Below we discuss many benefits of movement. Because just like food, exercise is the medicine!
First, movement has mental health benefits. Any exercise improves mood. During, and immediately after the exercise the brain releases endorphins. This creates a feeling or euphoric happiness. Exercise also stimulates the release of brain chemicals, neurotransmitters that regulate the mood: dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, and of course exercise reduces stress by regulating stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Have you tried to go for a long walk while feeling blue? If you did, you know how much better you feel once you get the blood flow going.
Sleep is one of the five pillars in Functional Medicine. Without proper sleep, our bodies can not repair and rejuvenate. Movement improves the quality of our sleep. Cardio exercise earlier in the day raises the body’s internal temperature which guides the body to decrease the temperature later in the day for better sleep. Also, the burst of energy created earlier in the day signals the body to rejuvenate and repair at night.
Movement reduces the risk for chronic disease. As we like to say in Functional Medicine, our genes load the gun, but our lifestyle pulls the trigger. By adhering to good lifestyle habits, we can control if and how our genes are expressed. Movement is one of those factors. Exercise reduces inflammation, the main cause of chronic illness. Exercise stimulates sweating, one of major detoxification pathways and getting rid of toxins that always contribute to aging and development of chronic disease. Exercise improves sugar metabolism, and in turn prevents diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Another benefit of exercise is that it stimulates brain activity. We used to think that brain cells do not regenerate. However, now we know that during exercise brain releases BDNF (brain deprived neurotropic factor) which stimulates neurons regeneration and growth. Movement increases the size of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. And increased hearth rate promotes blood flow to the brain, therefore delivering more oxygen and nutrients.
Bone Health and Healthy Weight
Exercise is imperative to support bone health. Weight training increases bone density and hence prevents osteoporosis. Exercising stimulates our metabolism and as a result our body burns calories more willingly, and hence we lose weight more readily. During exercise we enhance our lean body mass (muscles) and get rid of fat tissue.
There are many forms of movements and they are not one size fits all. However, any movement will give you some degree of benefits. Finding what works for your body and schedule can be imperative to keeping exercise as part of your healthy lifestyle habits.
The bottom line is that it all starts with you and what you’re willing to do and sacrifice to get what you want or you think you deserve. Hopefully, this article has given you that nudge you’ve been needing.
If you would like to get more information about cardiovascular health and treatments from functional medicine perspectives, and how to add more movementi into your daily life schedule an integrative medicine consultation at our office, call 212-696-4325.
I’d love to talk to you and answer your questions.
Stay healthy and strong!
Elena Klimenko, MD