How exercise improves the overall health of an individual has been proven. The focus has been on the biological changes occurring within the body in response to exercise and interesting observations have been made.However, the average person in the UK sits for an average of 7 hours a day and retirees for around 10 hours. The main reasons for this are working in offices, sedentary lifestyles and casual attitudes in relation to retiree’s exercise levels. Inactive lifestyles have lead to certain health developments in the UK in comparison to the rest of Europe.
Usually muscles, fat and liver cells absorb glucose from the blood, however when levels are raised to excess this may then lead to insulin resistance where cells “resist” the absorption of glucose from the blood. However, when exercising, muscles become more sensitive to insulin, which reverses insulin resistance and therefore decreases blood glucose levels. Being aware of this knowledge may help evade insulin resistance, the main characteristic of diabetes, this occurs when a high demand is placed on the pancreas to produce insulin. Blood glucose rises may also cause adverse effects to the nerves and blood vessels, which are seen in many cardiovascular conditions. Over weight individuals also have higher rates of inflammation within the body and brain in response to excess levels of nutrients and glucose. This also influences the development of metabolic conditions.
The exertion gained from exercise may reduce this glucose overload by burning the extra calories and energy rather than allowing it to accumulate at high levels. The advice for overweight individuals may be to track the amount of calories consumed and compare it to the amount of calories burnt aiming to burn slightly more than consumed. This has also been shown to prevent the development of certain metabolic and cardiovascular conditions. Studies in those over 60 years of age suggest only 30 minutes of walking per day may decrease the chance of diabetes or dementia significantly. This further illuminates a key link between physical and psychological health, exercise is known to increase cognition and memory abilities in this group. It does this in part by increasing the growth of new neurons, instigated by the role of insulin and increasing feel good hormones.
This may occur because insulin has a different role within the brain substituting its role as a glucose transporter. It enhances learning and memory and is far more important in cognition and brain functioning than previously believed. For instance, those with mental health conditions and Alzheimer’s have reduced levels of insulin which may be increased by exercise. Insulin reduces the effect of amyloid proteins characteristic of Alzheimer’s and clinical trials are underway to determine the effect of intranasal insulin as a therapy for it. If confirmed this may also strongly question the origin of the condition.
The effects of exercise on mental alertness and cognition may underlie what is known as “runner’s high” and it may be the effects of insulin which drive this. This boost may provide the motivation for those devoted to sports or exercise as it provides a reward for the individual with the added benefit of a reduced appetite. Importantly insulin regulates feeding and energy levels, demonstrated when external administration decreases food intake and body weight and also acts to suppress liver glucose production. What actually transpires at a cellular level may genuinely support the belief of being able to improve the health, weight and insulin sensitivity. In a world where many conditions are seen as irreversible by experts, this knowledge may provide the motivation needed by many. The ability to improve the health lies within every individual’s capabilities.
How does exercise alter the workings of the cells, body and brain?