Beyond Bone Health: 3 Evidence-Backed And Surprising Health Benefits Of Regular Exercise

Savers are well versed on the importance of exercise to strengthen and build bone. Wolff’s law elucidates that the stress muscles exert on bone stimulates bone growth and renewal. And this is one of the main reasons why exercise is a critical element for improving bone health and reversing osteoporosis and osteopenia.

Today we take an in-depth look at three incredible evidence-backed benefits of exercise that go well beyond bone health. From preventing deadly ailments, to increasing brain power, exercise is a powerful way to improve your overall health in very specific ways, as you’ll soon learn.

So let’s get started!

Exercise Proven More Effective Than Drugs To Keep You Healthy

Everyone knows that regular exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, but the generality of those terms isn’t exactly compelling. How about this instead: exercise prevents heart disease. That’s a little more enticing. Now consider this: exercise prevents this life-altering and often deadly condition just as effectively as drugs.

A recent study published in BMJ cross-examined 16 meta-analyses of studies about the effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality. This exhaustive study included data from 305 randomized control trials of 339,274 participants.

The scientists behind the study compared the efficacy of prescription drugs to exercise on mortality in rehabilitation of stroke, diabetes prevention, treatment of heart failure, and coronary heart disease prevention.

Here’s what the study says about coronary heart disease:

“When compared head to head in network meta-analyses, all interventions were not different beyond chance: there were no statistically detectable differences among any of the exercise and drug interventions in terms of their effects on mortality outcomes.”1

Physical activity interventions were more effective than drug treatment among patients with stroke. For heart failure, treatment with diuretics resulted in fewer deaths. For prediabetes, neither drugs nor exercise were clearly effective in reducing the odds of mortality.

This is the conclusion of this scientific report:

“Although limited in quantity, existing randomised trial evidence on exercise interventions suggests that exercise and many drug interventions are often potentially similar in terms of their mortality benefits in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, rehabilitation after stroke, treatment of heart failure, and prevention of diabetes.”1

The study also notes that there is far more research available about the impact of pharmaceuticals than about exercise. This is no wonder, since so much scientific inquiry is driven by Big Pharma. It’s a shame that all this time and effort is spent trying to concoct drugs that wind up causing awful side-effects without offering significant benefits.

Clearly, more resources ought to go into understanding the positive impacts of natural and accessible strategies for improving our health.

Get Fit To Get Smart

It turns out that not only is it smart to stay in shape, but staying in shape makes you smarter! Now that’s a feedback loop worth getting stuck in.

Several studies have examined the relationship between specific parts of brain function and physical activity. Their results are exciting for all Savers who are already engaged in regular exercise.

One study, published in the journal Hippocampus, examines the relationship between physical fitness, hippocampus size, and spatial memory.2 We already knew that the hippocampus is an important part of spatial navigation and other forms of relational memory. We were also aware that hippocampal size can be changed by engaging in certain activities. For example, London taxi drivers, who are charged with memorizing every street in the city and how to navigate them, were found to have larger hippocampus sizes than the average person.

Having a particularly powerful hippocampus isn’t just a matter of mental vanity, it improves your memory.3 This strengthening of spatial memory helps us to maintain our independence as we age, and to keep growing and learning.

Another study, conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found that moderate exercise enhances the connectivity in important brain circuits.4 This research involved 65 people from the ages of 59 to 80 who joined either a walking group or a stretching and toning group for a full year. None of the participants were in the habit of regular physical exercise before the study.

The scientists looked at a particular brain circuit called the default mode network (DMN). This is the set of neuronal connections that is engaged when a person is passively observing something, or just daydreaming. Prior studies have associated a loss of coordination in the DMN with Alzheimer’s disease, and the decline of this brain function is common with aging.

Before, during and after the year-long study the researchers performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the brains of the participants to determine if their change in habits was impacting their DMN connectivity and performance on cognitive tasks. At the end of the year, the group who did stretching and toning didn’t see much improvement, but the walking group was a different story.

The aerobic exercise of a regular practice of walking significantly improved DMN connectivity and increased connectivity in parts of another brain circuit that aids in the performance of complex tasks. Here’s what one of the lead researchers had to say on the value of this change:

“The higher the connectivity, the better the performance on some of these cognitive tasks, especially the ones we call executive control tasks — things like planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity, working memory and multitasking,”4

These are certainly important parts of living life, and ones that can become more difficult with advanced age. Isn’t it great to know that moderate physical exercise can help combat this unnecessary decline?

The Requirement For Good Health

It’s clear that exercise is essential to our health. But how much is the right amount? While that answer might be a little different for everyone, one study aimed to figure out the smallest amount of activity possible to still reap the benefits of an active lifestyle.

The title of this study really says it all, “Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study.” Reducing mortality and extending life expectancy are certainly powerful incentives to get moving, and it turns out that it doesn’t even require much time.5

This study looked at 416,175 individuals who participated in a standard medical screening program in Taiwan between 1996 and 2008. Based on a physical activity questionnaire everyone was placed into one of five categories describing how much they exercised. Compared to the bottom rung on the ladder, the “inactive” group, the next lowest activity group had a 14% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a four year longer life expectancy. That group averaged 92 minutes of exercise a week, or 15 minutes a day.5

Every additional 15 minutes per day reduced that mortality rate an additional 4%, and these results spanned ages and sexes, and included those with cardiovascular disease risks. It’s nice to know there’s room to grow, and that extra effort really does pay off.

This is great news. You don’t have to go from zero to a hundred and completely upend your routine to improve your health and extend your life. You just have to add 15 minutes of physical activity per day. The Save Our Bones Program recommends walking and weight-bearing exercises along with bone-building targeted ones. These are precisely the sort of exercises shown in the studies above to decrease the chance of diseases, increase mental capacity, and to extend the years of your life.

If you’re looking for a way to get started and put these ideas into motion, then follow this link to learn more about the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System. It’s an exercise program specifically developed to build your bones, that also provides everything you need to start a life-improving practice of physical activity. Also, the length of a Densercise™ session is the exact length of the daily recommendation of the last study in today’s article: 15 minutes.

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Clearly, you can’t keep your body and bones healthy without regular physical exercise. That’s the bottom line. If you’re ready to start improving the health of your bones and your life, today is the day to make that change!

Till next time,

References:

1Huseyin Naci, John P A Ioannidis. “Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes: metaepidemiological study.” BMJ 2013;347:f5577. Web: http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5577
2Kirk I. Erickson, Ruchika S. Prakash, Michelle W. Voss, Laura Chaddock, Liang Hu, Katherine S. Morris, Siobhan M. White, Thomas R. Wójcicki, Edward McAuley, Arthur F. Kramer. ‘Aerobic fitness is associated with hippocampal volume in elderly humans.’ Hippocampus, 2009; NA DOI: 10.1002/hipo.20547
3Diana Yates. “Physical fitness improves spatial memory, increases size of brain structure” Illinois News Bureau. Feb 25, 2009. Web: https://news.illinois.edu/blog/view/6367/206020
4Michelle W. Voss, et al. “Plasticity of Brain Networks in a Randomized Intervention Trial of Exercise Training in Older Adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.” 2010; Web: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnagi.2010.00032/full
5Wen, Chi Pang et al. “Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study.” The Lancet , Volume 378 , Issue 9798 , 1244 – 1253. Web: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60749-6/abstract

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  1. Pam July 21, 2017, 12:43 pm

    Vivian,
    I love all your articles . The Drs are always pushing osteoporosis drugs, but, I believe in eating healthy, exercise and always staying positive,
    What concerns me is the fact that my Endocrinologist keeps telling me my Vit D levels are normal , calcium remains normal but on the upper limit of normal range but my Parathyroid hormone continues to be high. I was wondering if you have done any articles on the Parathyroid hormone and what we need to do to lower it . My Dr suggested an operation and drugs .

  2. Kathleen R. June 12, 2017, 2:03 pm

    What an interesting article!! Plainly speaking: “Get Moving!” Thanks again, Vivian for an impactful report.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 12, 2017, 8:31 pm

      That sums it up well, Kathleen! And you are welcome. 🙂

  3. Colette June 12, 2017, 11:27 am

    Fascinating info indeed,Vivian! Thanks for helping us stay healthy and fit. Greatly appreciate all your research.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA June 12, 2017, 1:08 pm

      You’re welcome, Colette!

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