It’s a polemic topic more now in a chronic sedentary society that seems to hold even more to engage in activities that demand no physical effort, however even the evolution supports that we need to move, that physical activity is no as popularized in the 80’s only to look “hot”, it’s a lot more for your overall homeostasis, it’s a lot more for your internal detoxification and most importantly is for your mental health.
Maintaining a considerable amount of your memory, of your neural networks, of your ability to generate new connections and new neurons is based on the amount of physical activity you have in your life. Stop deviating from the subject and trying t look for excuses, because if you engage in that lazy behavior soon you won’t even remember any kind of excuses to avoid doing physical activity, and pay attention that I’m not even saying doing exercise! Of course many of us know that doing exercise will work better, but let’s start with some physical activity.
Over the past decade numerous studies have shown a beneficial effect of aerobic exercise on cognition across the lifespan, with particularly important implications for the aging brain. These positive exercise-induced brain changes have been associated with cognitive benefits supporting exercise as a promising lifestyle intervention, offering potential therapeutic possibilities for both healthy aging and for individuals suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (1).
Exercise appears to trigger hippocampal neurogenesis primarily through the upregulation of neurotrophins and growth factors, with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) playing a key role. In addition, angiogenesis and enhanced cerebral perfusion may play an important role in exercise-induced structural brain benefits (1).
Engaging in physical activity is something that evolution has promoted, and if we remember, ancient humans, during prehistoric times had to perform foraging labors in order to be able to obtain their food, women had to be looking for shelter and also becoming experts gatherers, foreseeing the safety and wellbeing of their tribes, in both cases a good amount of physical activity was performed, greeks and romans another ancient culture example had to walk, fight and also performed several types of physical activity, all of these activities supported the healthy outlook that those cultures had and the way they took care of their bodies was also a cult to perfection.
Without having to arrive to any level of obsession, physical activity has proven over and over that is the best natural way to maintain your body in a more homeostatic state that will allow you to perform your everyday activities much better than if you maintain a sedentary lifestyle.
From maintaining a balanced level of energy supply, purifying your blood with more oxygen availability, allowing your internal organs to engage in regulating the toxic output of chemicals derived from your metabolic functions, regulating your circadian rhythms allowing you to have a more regular sleep pattern, controlling the amount of hormones required for your basic and more complex metabolic and repairing tasks, influencing your mood and your stress levels by keeping your hormones in better amounts, to giving you sharpness, clarity and a better attention span, exercise is your best choice, whether you want to do it or not. Any kind of pharmaceutical or synthetic pill will ever achieve what a walk of 30 minutes will give to your body and brain health.
Therefore, let’s leave the apathy mental state of looking excuses for not doing it, all the statistics of chronic, mental, immune diseases are now pointing in the direction that we need to change our lifestyle to a more long term vision, instead of having to wait for a prescription to do the exercise, which unfortunately that will be together with a pharmaceutical drug to control your chronic disease that you created just because you didn’t have time!
Can you even imagine your body saying to you: “You know what “Peter” today I’m not in the mood and I won’t allow you to do your work!”, our bodies are the most amazing biological and physical asset that we have to enjoy all the experiences here on this physical realm, yet we’re not even a little bit interested many times in how it works, but I can bet you that you are interested in knowing how the new best app to post on social media works, or how your new device can allow you to play more songs without consuming too much battery.
Many people still can argue and will say ..it’s not only about your body, it’s also about your mind and spirit! Yes, indeed is a complete balance of more pillars, however your physical energy and stamina will allow you to have a sharper, younger and cleaner brain, which will in turn allow you to have a much easier time doing meditation, yoga or pray. It’s all about being more concerned of you, is all about returning your body some of the effort that has given you for many years, without asking you for anything, and mostly without giving you any complains until of course you have abused of it, by maintaining a sedentary lifestyle.
Based on analyses of modern human hunting and gathering populations, it is likely that foraging occurs at moderate aerobic intensities ($40–85% of maximum aerobic capacity) over long time-periods, and thus we might expect that physiological adaptations are tuned to this range of intensities. Because humans never had to adapt to long periods of inactivity, including very low amounts of moderate intensity activity, our physiological response to long-term inactivity can lead to chronic disease, and this may be especially relevant in the context of cognitive and brain aging (1).
For example, in the face of chronically low levels of physical activity, the human cardiovascular system reduces peripheral vasculature and vascular elasticity, leading to heightened cardio-vascular disease risk. Because the primary function of the cardiovascular system (i.e., moving oxygen-containing blood to working muscles and organs) is taxed during exercise, chronic inactivity reduces this stimulus and elicits a detrimental response (1).
Instead of building up capacity from a sedentary life, we suggest that the adult human body consistently responds to exercise-induced stimulation by maintaining brain capacity, and that a lack of stimulation is treated as an opportunity for energy savings through capacity reduction. Such reductions in capacity in the context of neurologically healthy aging are expressed as age-related brain atrophy. This concept also suggests that genetic risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, that were maintained throughout our evolutionary history (e.g., the apolipoprotein E (APOE) e4 allele) may only lead to enhanced risk of cognitive impairment or vulnerability to dementia when met with a lack of exercise-induced stimulation (1).
Supported by research presented above, exercise stimulation of our primary body functions such as the cardiovascular system as well as brain cognition convey the idea that many of the detrimental effects of a sedentary lifestyle will lead your energy output to downregulate key functions such as the quality of the proteins that you’re producing, and it is completely understandable as many of the DNA repairing mechanisms, DNA enzymes that allow the copying machinery as well as the translation equipment demand a great output of energy to produce quality proteins and maintain the structure of such complex enzymes, repair mechanisms and proof reading abilities.
Many physical activity interventions have been effective in improving cognition among both healthy and cognitively impaired populations. The general physical activity recommendation for breast cancer survivors is to engage in 150 minutes per week of Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA). However, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data indicate that breast cancer survivors spend only approximately 25 minutes per week in MVPA. Studies of the impact of physical activity on cancer-related cognitive impairments have great potential to improve the lives among the growing number of cancer survivors (2).
Even for populations that have overcome difficult challenges such as a chemotherapy and after of course a period of recovery from such aggressive treatment, cognitive abilities as well as immune functions are diminished, therefore a physical activity treatment such as a 30 minute walk for five days or two 45 minutes sessions coupled with other two 30 minutes sessions per week to comply with the 150 minutes recommended proved a statistically significant improvement in processing speed which has been linked to memory maintenance and learning abilities (2).
Several cross-sectional studies in cancer survivors using objective mea- sures of cognition have indicated that greater physical activity is associated with several domains of cognition, including information processing speed, memory, executive functioning, and attention. These studies lend support to the hypothesis that increasing physical activity may be an effective intervention for improving cognition in breast cancer survivors (2).
As depicted above, exercise or moderate physical activity which encompasses examples such as: walking at a pace of 3-5 miles per hour (4.8 to 8 km/h), water aerobics, cycling lower than 10 miles/h (16 km/h), tennis (doubles), ballroom dancing, gardening, etc.. are practical so you can achieve your target dose for the week and you maintain a cognitive, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic health in a long term scenario which will also keep your internal body younger than the average.
Seeing all the clinical evidence as well as the knowledge that we have from many other cultures that promote exercise and physical activity it is contradictory to think that we have been so oblivious to the fact that our lives are just getting too sedentary and that same state creates a toxic cycle inside of you that maintains your body under an extremely apathy level, bad or swing moods, lower mental performance, lower immune function and of course several metabolic or progression towards chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, dislipidemias, anxiety, depression, obesity and some type of cancers.
In addition to all of these benefits that exercise has, it has also been documented that maintaining an active lifestyle will allow you to perceive your reality with a better outlook than if you are just in a sedentary loop, because exercise has proved to increase the amount of dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin and the star inner brain booster Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which now there’s a lot of evidence supporting the fact that this neurotrophic factor maintains the health of your neurons, promotes the survival of your brain connections, allows the expansion of more synapses creating a new neural network for new things that you’re learning, and above all encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons giving you the ability to have a clearer, younger and more powerful mind.
In summary, whether you look for excuses of not having enough time, or any other kind of excuse to not do a small walk of 30 minutes at least 5 times per week, the benefits are there, the evidence is growing as you read, the brain enhancing opportunities are just outside the door, the spiritual benefits of engaging with nature are also present, the improvement of your social interactions by having a better mood and a healthier pattern of sleep and the ability to maintain, clean and detoxify all your metabolic functions are more than enough to motivate you to finally engage in a physical active lifestyle, so stop arguing and start doing it!
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Raichlen, D. A., & Alexander, G. E. (2017). Adaptive Capacity: An Evolutionary Neuroscience Model Linking Exercise, Cognition, and Brain Health. Trends in Neurosciences, 40(7), 408–421.
Hartman, S. J., Nelson, S. H., Myers, E., Natarajan, L., Sears, D. D., Palmer, B. W. & Patterson, R. E. (2018). Randomized controlled trial of increasing physical activity on objectively measured and self‐reported cognitive functioning among breast cancer survivors: The memory & motion study. Cancer, 124(1), 192-202.