I often tout the benefits of exercise as being above and beyond those of weight management. Exercise makes you feel better. Protects the heart. Improves cognitive function. The list goes on. Exercise physiologists and personal trainers prescribe exercise knowing that fitness can improve health and keep us healthy. One piece that I have always struggled with is family history.
On my maternal side, my grandparents and great grandparents succumbed to heart disease. My mother had a stent put in years ago to help keep her arteries open. This is something that is real for me and if I dig deep enough most likely provides a “why” to my exercise routine. Is my condition pre-determined? Will I have heart disease? Will my children?
In a fascinating article published this month in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (an reviewed yesterday in the New York Times), a group of researchers laid claim to a condition that may just set the stage for heart disease, diabetes, and other ailments. The condition: inactivity. Two keys here: 1) That being inactive is different than not exercising, and 2) Inactivity may set the stage for disease (i.e. it creates the conditions in the body which may allow disease to take hold). Here is what happened:
Participants who were regularly active (averaging more than 10,000 steps per day) were monitored. They were observed during their normal routine for three days and then told to back off for three days (defined as getting less than 3,000 steps per day). Activity was closely observed, food intake was recorded, and blood glucose measured. During the days of normal activity no spikes in blood sugar were identified, even after eating. However, when activity was decreased, blood sugar spikes were seen almost immediately.
“Who cares?” you ask. Your body cares. Your family cares. Spikes in blood sugar, or what we like to call poor glycemic control, have been linked to diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. We go throughout our days (sitting and sleeping an average of 18 hours), eating snacks, big meals, etc. In the background our bodies work hard to process that food and deal with our laziness. The bodies ability to do that work is compromised when we sit. Simply by being active throughout the day (i.e. standing for a few minutes each hour, or better yet, standing all day, walking more) our bodies develop better glycemic control, and thus could lead us to better health. There is just something evil about sitting. Don’t do it. Ever. Ok, maybe when you sleep.
I know I am at risk of heart disease. Love my grandparents and those that came before me dearly, but this was one of their gifts. Maybe, just maybe, through be less inactive, I can turn those conditions in my favor. Can you be more active today?
Combine all this with a new study that associates diet soda consumption with heart disease and we are in trouble…..