The Effects of Exercise on Your Mind and Body

Regular physical exercise of 40 to 60 minutes, three to five times a week (especially in the morning) is a powerful means to increase your mental acuity, combat depression and anxiety, increase your resilience to stress, prevent or help treat diabetes, hypertension, cardio-vascular disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and common back pains.

Physical Exercise Enhances Higher Brain Functions

Physical exercise enhances cognitive abilities in the areas of memory, executive functioning, attention/concentration and psychomotor speed which translates into significant improvements in the higher mental processes of "executive functions" that involve concentration, planning, organization, strategic thinking, learning, abstract thinking and the ability to process different intellectual tasks in parallel.

According to a review published by a renowned neuroscientist in the Scientific American there are no medications, whether approved or in the pipeline, that reach the extent of the cognitive enhancement of physical exercise.

Why exercise has such powerful brain enhancing effects is still unknown, but researchers believe that the increases in breathing and heart rate enhances blood flow to the brain promoting more energy production and waste removal. In fact, the increase in blood flow to the frontal lobes, which are responsible for higher mental functions, is around 40% in people who exercise. Another possible mechanism has been hypothesized based on animal studies, which showed an increase in brain blood vessels, neurons and neuronal connection sites. Increases in body temperature and neurochemical mechanisms have also been put forward as possible explanations.

Physical Exercise is as Effective as Medication in Depression

Aerobic exercise is as effective as medication to combat depression regardless of the severity, age, or gender and it outperforms medication in the long-term in what concerns the prevention of depressive relapses. The antidepressant effect requires at least 40 minutes of aerobic exercise, 3 to 5 times a week at 65-85% of the age adjusted maximum heart rate. For more detailed information please send me an email and I'll provide you with a state-of-the-art article I wrote about this topic last year and which I keep updated as new information arises (

Physical Exercise Improves Cardiovascular Health

Conventional estimates suggested that less than 50% of the risks of heart attacks are a result of detrimental habits, but new findings show that the overwhelming majority of heart attacks can be avoided through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.

The INTERHEART Study, which was published in 2004 in the prestigious journal Lancet, involved 52 countries and 30,000 subjects. Its finding was that nine risk factors, all of which are modifiable through changes in lifestyle, account for 90% of all heart disease in men and 94% in women.

The nine risk factors are: abnormal blood lipids, smoking, a lack of physical exercise, a lack of daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, high blood pressure, diabetes, abdominal obesity and psychosocial stress.

Eating healthy, quitting smoking and regular physical activity alone control 80% of the risk of developing a heart attack including the associated risk factors such as high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia.

Physical Exercise Prevents and Helps Treat Diabetes

According to Harvard's health counsel diabetes can be prevented through diet and physical exercise in 75% of cases. In already manifest diabetes type II continued physical exercise improves receptor sensitivity to insulin, along with regularization of abnormal lipid metabolism. The reversal of the reduced insulin sensitivity is key for overcoming diabetes. Before diabetics begin any program of physical exercise, it is advisable to have a medical exam to determine whether they have good blood sugar control and are without serious complications. Because the effect of exercise that is manifested in improved insulin sensitivity decreases within three days after exercise and is no longer apparent after one week, a continuous program is needed.

Physical Exercise for Arthritis

Joints are made to move. Although many people think that pain and stiffness require rest the lack of movement actually causes the muscles around the joint to become weaker which accelerates the disease process. Regular exercise encourages the body to produce extra synovial fluid, which is the liquid that surrounds and nourishes the cartilage. Together with a healthy nutrition rich in joint health promoting nutrients like vitamins and omega-3-fatty acids four basic types of exercise that can help patients with arthritis are: stretching, range-of-motion exercises (slowly moving the joints through their full range), strength training and aerobics. Anyone with arthritis should incorporate each of these four types of exercise into their life.

Physical Exercise for Common Causes of Back pain

Low back pain is the #2 reason that Americans see their doctor-second only to colds and flu. About 80% of Americans will experience acute back pain even though it is highly preventable. To treat spontaneous remission of an acute episode of back pain start a regular program of aerobic endurance training and seek professional advice on specific exercises for back pain. Just aerobic exercise is effective in most cases. A good physiotherapist can suggest additional exercises to strengthen key muscles such as the abdominal muscles and those stabilizing the spine.

Forty minutes 3 to 5 times a week can vastly improve your health. The most frequent excuse we give ourselves for not exercising is that we have no time. But, actually the busiest people are the ones who exercise the most. Having no time doesn't explain inactivity. My advice, don't try to find a better excuse, just do it!

Simone Silvestri