Cell exercise is the fourth aspect of the Healthy Cell Concept.

       We all know that exercise is important to our health.  I have already shown how exercise is absolutely necessary in order for our lymphatic system to function in its role of removing toxins from the trillions of cells that make up our body.  Exercise increases muscle strength so that we can work and play for longer periods of time without fatigue.  Many look upon exercise as a means of burning extra calories in order to better manage their weight.  It is in this area of weight management that I will frame our discussion of exercise as it is here where people often misunderstand the relationship between exercise and health.

       Is exercise the pathway to weight loss?  The average pound of stored fat in the body is equal to 3,600 calories of stored energy.  Running an eight minute mile will burn up approximately 100 calories.  Dancing for twenty minutes, bicycling two and one-half miles in nine minutes or walking one mile in twenty minutes will do the same.  To put it another way, you would have to run thirty six miles at eight minutes a mile to lose one pound of stored fat.  You can readily see that exercise, in and of itself, is not a quick pathway to weight loss.

       Am I suggesting that exercise is not an important factor in weight management?  Not at all!  What I am saying is that the role of exercise, as it relates to weight management, is more complex and needs to be understood in relation to how the body uses energy. 

       The cells of our body contain little energy producing factories called mitochondria.  These mitochondria are lung like organelles that mix oxygen with nutrients to provide the energy we need for human activity.   At moderate rates of activity, a sufficient amount of energy can be generated from the utilization of the blood sugar glucose and the oxygen we breathe in, so that an individual is constantly working in what can be referred to as their aerobic training zone. Your aerobic training zone is the level at which you can work and play without the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles.  Lactic acid accumulation is what gives you that burning sensation in the muscles that results in muscle fatigue.

       Lactic acid buildup is what normally occurs in the muscles as a result of there not being enough oxygen supplied to the mitochondria of muscle cells.  Therefore, the most important reason for exercise is to increase the oxygen utilization capacity of the body and therefore reduce the rate at which lactic acid accumulates.

       How does exercise increase the oxygen utilization capacity of the body?  Aerobic exercise, (exercise that allows for the uptake of more oxygen than when resting), will multiply the number of mitochondria in the cells one to two times over that of an unfit person.  The size of the mitochondria can increase up to 40% and the enzymes that are involved in energy production can be increased anywhere from ten to one-hundred percent.

       Aerobic exercise provides for a greater oxygen supply to the tissues of the body and therefore allows for a more efficient burning of fuel.  This results in a more complete breakdown of sugars and fats.  Better fuel efficiency will result in more energy and less fatigue.  This is a primary purpose for maintaining a consistent exercise program.

      While exercise will not burn a lot of fat calories during the time you are exercising, such exercise will raise your basic metabolic rate and keep it elevated for hours after you have finished exercising.  This results in an increase in the rate at which calories are burned over a period of hours, even after you have discontinued your exercise.  This can help to reduce weight through more efficient metabolism.  For example, walking one hour per day with no increase in daily calorie intake could result in the loss of thirty pounds in one year.

       Exercise will increase the rate at which fat is burned while at the same time increasing the synthesis of protein and therefore limit the loss of muscle mass while on a low calorie diet to lose weight.  Exercise will also increase the burning of brown fat, which is felt to be a primary factor in weight management.  Brown fat is a metabolically active fat that is found close to the skeleton and is responsible for the production of body heat. Overweight individuals are often found to poorly utilize brown fat.

       Additional benefits of regular aerobic exercise include a decrease in the resting pulse rate and blood pressure, an increase in hemoglobin and therefore better oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, increase in HDL cholesterol, (good guys), and a decrease in LDL cholesterol, (bad guys), and an increase in the number of capillaries carrying blood throughout the body.  Typical forms of aerobic exercise include walking, running, rebounding, swimming, biking and any other exercise that raises the heart rate above resting levels for an extended period of time.

       One method of determining your aerobic training zone is to subtract your age from 180 which will give you the maximum number of heart beats per minute that is allowable for the average “unfit” person of a particular age.  An ideal aerobic exercise program would require maintaining at least 70% of your maximum allowable heart rate for 20 minutes, three or four times per week.  As your fitness level increases, your allowable maximum heart rate can be refigured on the basis of 220 minus your age.

       While aerobic exercise is best for overall physical fitness, doing resistive type exercise will do a lot to strengthen muscle and connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments.  Such resistive exercise can include everything from push-ups, chin-ups and working out with free weights or weight machines. Use of stretching equipment, such as Xertubes, is a great way to increase strength and flexibility. 

       Both aerobic and resistive exercise will enhance bone strength by facilitating calcium utilization.  Exercise has also been shown to increase T lymphocyte activity in the body and therefore enhance immune response.  Much research has demonstrated the relationship between exercise and stress reduction.  Exercise has been shown to affect neurological function by stimulating the production of certain brain chemicals such as endorphins which elevate mood.  

       In summary, exercise is vital to the health and well being of both body and mind.  Our bodies were designed to be active. Even short periods of inactivity result in atrophy of muscle tissue.  Strength of both body and brain tissue is directly related to consistent exercise.  It is the blood that carries nutrients to all parts of the body.  Exercise is an important dynamic in facilitating good blood flow throughout the vascular system.  Good blood flow results in a better nutrient feed to the various tissue systems of the body. 

      In addition to bodily exercise, the mind should also be exercised through reading and various projects that require creative thinking and application of thought.  Research has demonstrated that maintaining an active (exercised) mind is a vital dynamic in preventing the onset of Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia. Do some reading every day.  Work cross-word puzzles.  Play chess and card games. Keeping the mind exercised will pay off in huge dividends, especially as you grow older.

The Healthy Cell Concept: Part Five