If you’re a person that doesn’t need “proof” that exercise can have a MAJOR impact on how you feel and what you can do in your life, don’t bother to read this post. If you don’t need any motivating information about how much control you have over your health, see ya! If you don’t want any advice on what your fitness plan should include, catch ya later!
If you’re still here, please keep reading and you can share my exitement and amazement over what is possible! Come on, check it out!
I write these notes because I don’t want to forget this information. I like to know WHY and HOW things work because that makes it easier for me to accept and internalize the conclusions and advice given. This is true prevention medicine and personal empowerment. I love it. I also want to share with others in the hopes that their journey will be easier and more successful.
This book speaks to older women about aging but it explains the reasons way healthy choices are physiologically beneficial for EVERYBODY! It makes the case that we are in control of the quality of our lives. We can’t stop aging but we can stop physically decaying. Biological aging is inevitable which means that heart rates do go down a bit every year and skin and hair do change over time. But, decay in the form of illness and decreased functionality is not inevitable. The book explains why and how we are in control of about 70% of how we feel and what we can do over our entire lifespan to feel good and to be capable. This comes from how we choose to use our bodies and minds. Those choices create very specific signals to our bodies. Those signals trigger either growth or decay. It’s basic biology. Amazingly, even if we haven’t been creating the right signals to our bodies and decay has begun, we can reverse that by now making new choices. Some 70 percent of premature death and aging is lifestyle-related. If we make the right choices, we can eliminate more than half of all disease in women and men over fifty. Not delay it, eliminate it. Amazing. Amazing and exciting!
These are keys to health promoted by the book.
Exercise, enough to sweat, for 45 minutes six days a week for the rest of your life.
- Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life.
- Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life.
- Spend less than you make.
- Quit eating crap.
- Connect and commit.
THE BIOLOGY BEHIND THE ADVICE
Without a good understanding of the why and how behind the advice, it might be difficult for most people to follow it because it requires committing to new and time consuming lifestyle choices.
We are in the midst of a revolution in the science of aging. This involves a better understanding of how our bodies work on a cellular level. The body is designed to maintain balance and health. This balance is managed at the cellular level through electrical and chemical impulses. We generate the right signals through the workings of our wonderful brain. Everything you do physically, everything you eat, everything you think and feel, every emotion and experience changes your body and your brain in physical ways that were set in stone millions or billions of years ago.
GENERATING THE GROWTH / HEALTH SIGNALS
Our bodies and minds are precision instruments designed for succeeding in harmony with the natural environment as experienced hundreds of millions of years ago. In bad times such as drought, famine or winter, we are physically built to shut down or hibernate which is fine if you live in the wild. Over wintering involves storing fat. For 3,500 million years, life is walked on a razor-thin edge between energy and exertion. There is only growth and decay. How we live is how it is decided which path we take.
Back in the day, millions of years ago, in springtime, people hiked many miles a day foraging for food. That exercise was and is the single most powerful signal we can send that it is springtime, the season to grow and renew. That exercise is what produces the chemical signals that create lean, powerful, efficient bodies. Excess fat isn’t needed as in winter. That exercise increases the supply of blood and oxygen to the muscles. Immune function increases to repair and renew. These physical signals to the brain also create a brain chemistry of optimism needed for hunting and foraging with the tribe.
Now we live in temperature controlled homes, with cars, refrigerators, fast food, loneliness, televisions, computers, and nice comfortable couches! And if today, our lifestyle is one of mostly being sedentary, withdrawn from social contact and eating too much, these lifestyle choices signal to the body that winter is approaching and it is time to hang on to the fat and slow everything down. The constant stream of decay signals creates illness, weakness, depression and ultimate death. This decay is NOT aging. We can age without decay.
To fix this, you need to do things that tell your body that it is springtime and time to grow. And you need to do these things every day. Following the advice of the book does that.
HOW YOUR BODY REPLACES ITSELF
Most of the cells in the body are designed to fall apart and be replaced with new cells. The cells in your muscles are replaced every four months. So, you have brand new muscles three times a year. Your blood cells are replaced every three months, your platelets every ten days, your bones every couple of years and your taste buds are replaced every day. So, your body is getting rid of lots and lots of cells every day. The trick is to grow more than you throw out and to grow healthy cells.
Most people don’t realize the importance of exercise and they role of muscles in the recreation of all those new cells. Muscles control the chemistry of growth and exercise controls what the muscles do. And luckily you get to decide how often, how much and what kind of exercise to do!
The nerve impulse to contract a muscle also sends a signal to build it up. Those two same signals are sent to the rest of your body. If enough of the growth signals are sent at once, they overwhelm the decay signals and your body turns on the mechanisms to build up the muscles, heart, tendons, bones, joints, etc.
INSIDE THE MUSCLE
Exercise is good stress for your muscles which actually drains them of energy and injures them slightly. The bits that are injured then need repair which is how the muscle is strengthened.
This happens when enzymes and proteins from the exercised muscle leak into the bloodstream which triggers a chain reaction of inflammation. White blood cells arrive to clean up the unneeded dead cells. After some time, the completion of this cleanup automatically triggers the next step which is the growth and repair process. If this stress is short term, the decay triggers growth which is good. But if the stress is chronic, decay stays in charge. All forms of aerobic exercise produces the chemicals needed to do the breakdown but only if the exercise is at a certain level of intensity and length do the growth proteins get called to the scene. This is worth repeating. In order to get the maximum benefit from exercise, it must be done at a certain level of intensity and for a certain duration. That is why the recommendations for exercise are specific. That ensures the best outcomes for your efforts.
There are 3 chemically and anatomically distinct parts to the brain. While working together, each is responsible for completely different functions.
- This is the part of the brain that signals that it is “springtime” to your body. It handles all the hardwired physical aspects of your being. This part of the brain knows what you tell it by the way you live your life. It functions as if you still live in nature which is why if you exercise and make the other lifestyle changes, you automatically move in growth mode. This part of your brain has no emotions or thoughts. It automatically runs your body including your metabolism directly every organ and every cell in your body. Exercise is the language of the physical brain. If and how you move, tells it what to do. There is no changing this.
- Emotional brain
- Thinking brain
THE REST OF THE METABOLIC MACHINERY
All the cells in your body work together through chemical (hormones) and electrical (nervous system) communications. We have billions of cells all signaling their neighbors with trillions of chemical and nerve connections every day. You talk directly and specifically to your body through these connections every minute of every day. But, you might not like what your daily decisions and actions are saying.
GENERATING THE DECAY / ILLNESS / DEATH SIGNALS
There is normally a steady flow of the proteins that cause inflammation. And, this increases as we age. It is ONLY with exercise that there is enough of these proteins to trigger the repair / growth proteins to arrive. This balance between decay (i.e. inflammation without repair)and growth (inflammation followed by repair) is controlled by exercise frequency and intensity.
Unfortunately, chronic emotional stress caused by loneliness, boredom, apathy, and worry also produces the inflammation. You can change this by exercising, by filling your life or ideally, both. You get to decide.
A SUMMARY OF THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
Muscles control the chemistry of growth throughout your whole body. Each time you get on the treadmill and start to sweat, you are sending hundreds of growth chemical cascades to work strengthening and repairing.
- Triggers the release of growth metabolic processes which stops or delays decay
- Reduces and /or eliminates depression
- Results in weight loss as needed
- Heightens the effectiveness of your immune system
- Improves sleep
- Improves insulin regulation
- Improves circulation. At rest, only 20 percent of your blood flow moves through your muscles; in a trained athlete, that rises, with exercise, to 80 percent.
- Increases resistance to heart attack, stroke, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and high cholesterol.