The Detoxing and Medicinal Power of Movement by Dr. Daniel Dannug, DC, CCSP
In today’s society as a whole, we’re seeing a shift towards natural and holistic options for food, health and wellness. We’re seeing that with the purchase of organic foods, supplementation with minerals and herbs and with the use of chiropractors, acupuncturists, and traditional Chinese medicine as sources for alternative treatment. One popular trend in recent years has been the use of detoxes and cleansing programs.
Detoxing and cleansing can be used interchangeably but the main premise is to remove “harmful” things (toxins) from the body. And while many have seen benefits from detoxing, which can be in the form of a fast, diet, drink or powder, they are typically short-term programs, although yet effective. Improved energy, weight loss, improvement of gastrointenstinal health, decreased headaches, muscle pains and fatigue are some of health conditions different detox regimens can address. However, there is one form of “detoxing” that continues to have supported research behind it, as well as long-term effectiveness; and that is the detoxing power of movement a.k.a. exercise.
According to Medical News Today, as of 2017, the leading cause of death in America is heart disease, followed by cancer and with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes behind them rounding out the top 10. The risk of those four conditions has been shown to be decreased by physical activity, by making the time to “detoxify” your body through exercise. But much more than detox, exercise is natural medicine.
Studies and scientific data show that exercise assists the lungs, kidney, immune system and intestines in becoming more efficient at naturally detoxifying the body. It enhances our body to do what it was meant to do, protect us at all costs. Exercise keeps our body moving, increasing blood circulation and the uptake of oxygen, and as a result, enhancing the body’s own detoxification process. The National Institute of Health (NIH) is jumping on the bandwagon and have since launched a $170 million study to determine exactly what processes occur inside a body in motion with the hope to finally say “exercise is medicine.”
FROM THE OUTSIDE-IN
Beginning with the skin, exercise has been shown to increase blood flow to the skin, which brings nutrients to the epidermis which helps wounds heal faster and thus remain healthy. In 2014, a research team at McMaster University in Ontario led by Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and exercise science, found that people over the age of 40, who exercised regularly had healthier skin. Even more, the results of the study showed their skin to be closer in composition to that of 20 and 30-year old’s. The study involved skin biopsies of male and female volunteers ranged from 20 to 84 years of age. Half of the group were active, performing a minimum of three hours of moderate, vigorous physical activities per week while the others were almost sedentary, exercised no more than one hour per week.
Also, understanding that other factors may play a role in skin condition, such as diet, genes and lifestyle, the researchers took it a step farther and repeated a similar study with a group of individuals age 65 years or older. Again, skins were biopsied and the volunteers had normal skin for their age at the beginning. For three months, the group began a routine endurance training program, jogging or cycling twice a week at a moderate and strenuous pace for 30 minutes. At the end of the study, the volunteer’s skin was biopsied once again and the samples looked remarkably different with outer and inner lays of the skin looking very similar to that of 20 to 40-year old’s.
Although it’s unclear how exactly exercise changes skin composition there is a linkage with how exercises change our bodies including your skin and in a sense, make you look younger.
MUSCLES AND BONES
Your body has over 600 muscles, and these muscles help you lift, move, jump, pump blood throughout your body and even breathe. Muscles and bones work in conjunction to help you move freely and keep your body strong. Physical activities cause your muscles to work and as a result, respond by growing and getting stronger. Repeated weight bearing contractions of muscles then put pressure on the bones, increasing their density. Bone density is important for the prevention of osteoporosis leading to weaker bones. Like muscle, your bones are living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Studies have shown that younger adults who regularly exercise achieve greater peak bone mass (density and strength) than those who do not. Generally, bone mass peaks in our third decade of life and after that, we begin to lose bone, which can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis. Exercising allows us to maintain muscle strength, coordination and balance.
Dating back to studies as early as 1959 in the British Medical Journal, Dr. Kenneth W. Donald found that cardiac output improved as a result of exercise, even in grossly disabled patients. Even now, studies continue to show that moderate exercise can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type II diabetes, all three of which are leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
According to the journal, Circulation, by the American Heart Association, physical activity can make your heart stronger meaning your heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can do less work to pump, the force on your arteries decreases resulting in lower blood pressure. Exercise also prevents plaque buildup in your arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to all of the organs in the body. A buildup of fatty deposits (plaques) can build up in your artery walls and possibly form a clot, increasing your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Exercise, however, helps prevent plaque buildup by reducing levels of unhealthy cholesterol (LDL’s) and increasing levels of healthy cholesterol (HDL). High-density lipoproteins, or HDL’s, detox the body by transporting fat to the liver, preventing them from accumulating in your artery walls. In Type II diabetes control, regular exercise directly favors your body’s ability to use insulin to control glucose levels in the blood.
Not only good for the heart, exercise has been shown to help detox your mind when it comes to stress, anxiety and depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Survey results from the American Psychological Association found that 44% of Americans are dealing with moderate to high levels of stress. Chronic stress disorders can lead to muscle tension and lead to chronic pain syndromes, respiratory syndromes such as asthma attacks and hyperventilation, cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure and heart attacks. In studies at the Harvard Medical School, aerobic exercise is key for your head, as it is for you heart. The benefits of aerobic exercise mentally have a neurochemical basis by reducing the levels of the body’s stress hormones (detoxing), such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of serotonin and endorphins, which are your body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators in the brain. These same endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” and the feelings of optimism and relaxation after hard workouts.
In relation to depression, the best evidence comes from a 1999 published study by Duke University that found that 45 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week improved the mood of depressed adults as much as those who took Zoloft, a prescription anti-depressant.
Exercise has also been shown to lower the risk of cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzhiemer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, entitled Physical activity, diet, and risk of Alzheimer Disease, found that mental exercise can help reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 70%. Even more, further research has shown that women from age 40 to 60 who exercised regularly were shown to have significant reduction in memory loss and cognitive decline.
At the cellular level, exercise has been shown to slow down the aging of cells. A study in Science Advances in July 2016, showed that endurance exercise prevented the shortening of chromosome ends called telomeres. Telomeres are the end caps of chromosomes and the shorter the telomere, the older the cell. Every time a cell divides it copies its DNA in order for growth, maintenance or repair in the body and during this process sections of the chromosomes, called telomeres, get shorter. A factor called Telomeric repeat-containing RNA (TERRA) emerged as an important piece in telomeric integrity. Two compounds, nuclear respirator factor 1 (NRF1) and peroxisome proliferator, regulated telomere transcription. The study showed that moderate endurance exercise increased both these compounds and thus increased TERRA levels resulting in slowly aging cells.
When it comes to detoxing programs, they can improve energy, help you lose weight and/or clear your skin. As effective as some can be, they are typically short-term programs. And while detoxing helps with the short-term, incorporating exercise can help in the long-term. The one thing about exercise is that it’s never too late to start…and it’s essentially free: one can simply put on some sneakers and go outside. So how much exercise should I be doing? The recommended amount of exercise for most adults by the World Health Organization and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention is to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week and twice-weekly muscle strengthening. As far as what exercise should I be doing? There are many options and all are individually dependent based on ability, but there are many choices out there including swimming, yoga, calisthenics, cross fit, etc., you just have to find the right one for you.
Dr. Daniel Dannug, DC, CCSP,
HealthPro Chiropractic and Acupuncture. 9720 Cypresswood Drive, Suite 130, Houston, TX 77070. 281.809.0100. email@example.com. www.healthprochiro.com