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Why More Exercise is Better

Dr. Paul Williams of the University of California at Berkeley thinks that the American Heart Association's recommendation of "half an hour a day of exercise" is way too little. He has followed more than 100,000 runners for 20 years and has shown that exercising much more than that will dramatically reduce the high incidence of heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, glaucoma, diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, gout, gall stones, diverticulitis, and many other ailments (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, March 2009). Dr. Williams found that running 40 miles per week can lower risk of stroke by 69 percent, heart attacks by 37 percent and diabetes by 68 percent. To prevent progressive weight gain with aging, the runners needed to add 1.4 miles a week each year.

How inactivity kills: Human muscles get their energy by extracting sugar and fat from their blood supply. When muscles are at rest, they need insulin for sugar to pass into their cells. However, when muscles contract, sugar passes into their cells without requiring insulin.

Extra fat blocks insulin receptors so insulin can't do its job of driving sugar into cells and blood sugar rises to high levels. This causes sugar to stick to the surface of cell membranes. Once stuck to cell membranes, sugar can never get off and is eventually converted to sorbitol which destroys the cell to cause all the terrible side effects of diabetes.

The extra sugar outside cells is converted to fat, which blocks insulin receptors even more and prevents insulin from doing its job, leading to more weight gain and eventually to diabetes. Thirty-five percent of North Americans will become diabetic because they exercise too little and eat too much. More on why inactivity shortens life Why more exercise is better: Contracting muscles remove sugar rapidly from the bloodstream, without needing insulin, during and for up to one hour after exercise. The effect tapers off to zero at about 17 hours (American Journal of Clinical Nurtrition, July 2008). You are protected maximally from high rises in blood sugar and fat during and immediately after exercise. Therefore, the more time you spend contracting muscles, the longer you will be protected from the cell damage that leads to cancers, heart attacks, strokes, and other consequences that shorten your life or impair its quality.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do high blood sugar levels increase cancer risk?

Scientists at Umea University in Sweden showed that people with high blood sugar levels are at increased risk for many different cancers (Public Library of Science Medicine, January 2010). They checked blood sugar levels in 274,126 middle-aged men and 275,818 women from Norway, Austria and Sweden and followed them for 10 years. They found that high blood sugar levels are associated with increased risk for cancers of the liver, gallbladder, respiratory tract, thyroid, rectum, pancreas, bladder, uterus, cervix, and stomach; and multiple myeloma. Blood sugar levels for women were directly proportional to susceptibility for cancer. Since being overweight is also a major cancer-risk factor, the authors corrected for overweight and found that having high blood sugar levels in people who are not overweight is a major risk factor for cancers also.

Most scientist feel that there are many risk factors for cancer and the more of these factors you have, the more likely you are to develop cancer. These include: being overweight, not exercising regularly, not eating lots of fruits and vegetables, eating too much meat from mammals, fried and burnt foods, foods high in added sugars and fats, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, too much skin exposure to sunlight and radiation, too little skin exposure to sunlight, (lack of vitamin D), promiscuous sexual behavior, suffering from certain infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), human papilloma virus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), and working with or being exposed to various chemicals or hormones.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Can I use exercise to lower my high levels of the bad LDL cholesterol?

Probably not. You will have to change your diet so that you restrict meat, refined carbohydrates and fried foods; and eat large amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts (American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, July 2009). Most studies show little change in the bad LDL or total cholesterol with exercise-only programs (without weight loss). Exercise-only programs do help to prevent heart attacks by lowering triglycerides significantly, raising the good HDL cholesterol significantly, and increasing cholesterol particle size modestly.

Many authors claim that exercise moves LDL from most tissues in your body into the liver where it can be cleared, but it does this so minimally that nobody should expect to lower LDL cholesterol with an exercise program unless he or she also loses a lot of weight.

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Recipe of the Week:

A delicious breakfast recipe contributed by eZine reader Dr. Robert Rodensky:

Morning Mush

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 21st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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