We know that the ideal way to reach the elderly avoiding certain diseases is, in addition to ‘eating healthy’, following an active lifestyle. Why is sport so healthy? What is the optimal ‘dose’ of exercise?
When we do physical exercise, we get tired but, curiously, we also feel more agile, calmer, better. If we subject ourselves to this stimulus regularly for a sufficient time, that is, if we train, we become adapted to this tiredness and, in addition, the positive feelings become chronic, and all this is a consequence of what is happening organically in our tissues and cells.
The optimal dose and type of exercise vary for each person in each situation: age, diseases, lifestyle. Hence the difficulty of establishing guidelines that can be applied to the entire population.
Anyway, there is a minimum necessary for almost all people. Thus, the World Health Organization generically recommends that every adult person (and elderly, as long as their medical limitations do not prevent it) should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical exercise weekly or at least 75 minutes of High intensity(or the proportional combination of both). Also, international experts recommend performing strength exercises (such as lifting weights) that involve large muscle groups between one and two times a week. Also, it seems that higher doses of exercise (300 minutes of moderate exercise or 150 of intense exercise weekly) can bring additional benefits to our health.
The adaptation of our tissues to the stimulus of physical exercise is modulated by an infinite number of molecular pathways, often dependent on the organ we are analyzing. For example, at the brain level, exercise modulates the increase in vascularity and blood flow, increases the levels of neurotrophic factors that produce repair and growth of new neurons, reduces oxidative stress and helps to degrade certain toxic proteins that can give rise to diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. At the cardiovascular level, chronic exercise produces anti-inflammatory effects, increased blood flow and vagal tone (which is manifested with a decrease in heart rate), vasodilation (which results in a decrease in blood pressure) and reduction in blood lipid levels, among other benefits.
Being physically active also prevents cancer, especially breast and colon cancer, as exercise reduces free sex hormones and certain metabolic hormones, oxidative damage, and pro-inflammatory cytokines while promoting certain molecules that block the spread of cancer such as SPARC or calprotectin, in addition to stimulating immune function (at least if the exercise is not very intense). On the other hand, exercise is directly linked to the improvement of metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes or dyslipidemia.
This is so because it promotes insulin sensitivity and the ability of glucose uptake by the muscle, more fatty acids are removed from the bloodstream, and calorie expenditure is increased.
In summary, physical exercise is effective in the treatment and prevention of many diseases that substantially condition our ability to live longer and better.
Once you build the habit of exercise, you can find thousands of ways to improve. Without practice, every plan is worthless.