5 Simple & Fundamental Tips to Health & Longevity- Part 2
I have a confession to make. As a Chinese person born and partially raised in Taiwan, I did not believe in exercises. I was a typical glasses wearing, book carrying nerd. “Exercise, why?” “Asian women are not supposed to sweat or even have a glow!” “Sweating is uncivilized!”
Growing up, gyms didn’t really exist. There were swimming pools, yoga studios, dance studios, and martial arts dojos for sure, but Western style gym was not common place. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my daughter 9 years ago that I set foot in a conventional gym. I was embarrassed, lost, and a little scared. I was also pre- gestational diabetic and needed to keep my blood sugar under control. Surprisingly, I have been going to the gym on and off ever since. Now as a woman who is near her menopausal age, I am grateful I have been going to the gym and building up my bone density. As a crazy person who decided to start martial art practice again. Attending the same martial art classes as 200 lb men, weight training and cardio is saving my bacon.
So, after that rather long intro, here is Part 2 of 5 Simple and Fundamental Tips for Health and Longevity: Whole Body Physical Activity
1. Protect Bone Density
As mentioned in the intro, weight bearing exercises are great for preventing osteoporosis (brittle bones). How this works is your muscles are attached to bones. When you use your muscles to lift weights, the muscles stresses your bone structure, this then tells your body to keep putting minerals into your bones so they don’t break. A perfect example of the importance of weight bearing activity and bone density is seen in NASA’s astronauts. We have all seen astronauts perform tasks in low gravity with minimum effort. Because of this, their muscles actually weaken and so do their bones. For astronauts stationed in orbit, weight bearing exercises is part of their daily task. However, even with that commitment, astronauts still return to Earth with less than normal bone density.
2. Prevent Falls and Fractures
Regular weight bearing activities (walking included) is also a great way to gain physical coordination and balance. Good coordination equates to less falls and less chance of fractures. Even if you are already osteopenic or osteoporotic, it is never too late to start weight bearing activities. It will enhance the effect of your bone density medication and mineral supplement. Find a good trainer. He or she will be able to tailor a plan for you to strengthen your core muscles.
3. Better Sleep and Mood
Physical activity is one way I have often used to help clients get better sleep at night. This benefit is not always linked to exertion. Even if a client is only exercising once or twice a week, there is still an improvement to overall sleep duration and quality. This may be the result of better serotonin production after exercise. Serotonin is the feel good hormone. Not only does it improve our overall mood, it also has the ability to help us maintain deeper state of sleep.
4. Improve Sex Hormone Production and Decrease Stress Hormone Production
Moderate cardio work outs are an excellent way to improve circulation and metabolism throughout the body. It is far less common for physically active women to have irregular menstrual cycles and premenstrual symptoms. Excessive amount of body fat loss, however, can reduce sex hormone production and cause loss of menstrual period and bone density loss (estrogen maintains bone density).
Moderate weight bearing exercises increases the production of testosterone in both men and women. Testosterone in moderation is a mood enhancer in both men and women, independent of its ability to drive up libido.
Moderate amounts of physical activity also demonstrates an ability to lower stress hormone. Lower stress hormone can significantly improve women’s chances of conceiving. Lower stress hormone keeps blood sugar in balance, so there is less chance of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Lower stress hormone can mean less miscarriages. Stress hormone and progesterone (the hormone that maintains pregnancy) uses the same raw ingredient. If your body is feeling stressed, you will produce more cortisol instead of progesterone, leading to a greater chance of miscarriage. Stress reducing effect of exercise does not always apply to endurance or professional athlete, however.
5. Less Pain and Injury
I am a fan of massage therapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture care. I regularly use these services myself and recommend clients to these services. However, not all aches and pain require regular therapy. Many of our aches pains are repetitive stress injury of certain muscle group, due to the under use of other muscle groups. For example, some sciatic pain can be treated by strengthening the front thigh and inner thigh muscles by cycling or ellipticals. Some chronic neck and shoulder pain could be correct by strengthening the upper back muscles by rowing. Some lower back pain is alleviated simply by strengthening the abdominal muscles with sit up crunches.
And last but not least
6. Healthy Body Weight
I am not talking about BMI of 22 or less, fitting into certain clothes, or attracting the opposite gender. The definition of healthy body weight may also change with your age. You don’t have to fit into anyone’s mold. What we do know is this: Weight loss is the best way to decrease blood pressure (even more successful than some pharmaceuticals), decrease risk of heart disease and stroke, lower the risk of knee and hip joint damage, and control type 2 diabetes. We might even be able to say obesity and sedentary lifestyle contributes to depression and greater risk of infection.
So I hope you will try to get that 30-60 minutes of exercise 3 or more times a week.