Rx Exercise

Life Lines | Special Edition

If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.
Mandy Oaklander, “The New  Science of Exercise,” TIME, September 12, 2016.


People who are stressed have higher risk factors for heart disease and stroke like high cholesterol and hypertension. However, researchers in Sweden have found that people with high work stress who regularly exercise greatly reduce their risk factors for these diseases. In addition, it was evident that exercise also reduced the overall effects of stress. “How Exercise Makes Your Job Less Stressful,” time.com, November 3, 2016.


Physical activity reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, as well as helping to manage the disease for those who already have it. One study found that those who achieved 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity had a 26 percent reduced risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. A second study found that moderate exercise performed within 5 to 10 minutes after a meal significantly lowered blood glucose levels. “The importance of the amount of physical activity on the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes,” sciencedaily.com, October 21, 2016.


Regular exercise helps control the symptoms of asthma. According to a new study, engaging in just half an hour of moderate exercise, or even just anything active, increased an asthmatics control of their symptoms by two-and-a-half times. While people have been discouraged from exercising due to risks of having shortness of breath attacks, the new evidence shows the benefits to be greater than the risk. Precautionary measures such as using reliever medication and taking time to cool down afterwards can help, but there’s no excuse to not get out and exercise. “Just 30 minutes a day: Regular exercise relieves asthma,” sciencedaily.com, October 7, 2015.


Our bodies are made to move, but in today’s high-tech society, we have become accustomed to slouching over our computers. New research reveals that remaining in this position for a long time increases the risk of decreased lung capacity, decreased inhalation, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and early death. In fact, those who sit for more than six hours per day have a 17–34 percent higher risk of premature death than those who only sit for three hours per day. The best solution for those who have desk jobs is to increase the amount of breaks you take, set up your desk so you can sit straighter, and overall, just try to move as much as possible throughout your day. “The Silicon Valley Addiction: Is Sitting the New Smoking?” www.huffingtonpost.com, October 24, 2016.


How early in life can the effects of a lack of exercise be seen? According to a study from Finland, children as young as 6–8 years of age were already showing links between arterial stiffness and low levels of physical activity. Children with high levels of physical fitness had better arterial dilation capacity during physical exercise than their peers. Those who had both weak physical fitness and a high body fat percentage or low levels of physical activity had the stiffest arteries. As vascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes increase around the globe, helping your child become more active greatly reduces the risk for childhood obesity and for poor health later in life.
Here’s one way to encourage your children to be more active—surround them with active friends! Children with active friends are almost twice as likely to be in the most physically active category themselves. Having active friends has been found to be a stronger influence than the encouragement or involvement of parents. “Sedentary lifestyle and overweight weaken arterial health already in childhood,” University of Eastern Finland, www.uef.fi, September 11, 2015. “Friends may make the difference in keeping children active,” American Heart Association, March 3, 2015.


Exercise is the closest thing to the Fountain of Youth. Telomeres, those “guardians” of our chromosomes that prevent deterioration of our DNA, shorten as we age, leaving the chromosomes open to the deterioration. Exercise, in short, greatly slows this process, and thus slows aging! If that wasn’t enough, aerobic exercise also revs up blood flow to the skin, delivering oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and tone and speeds wound healing. “7 surprising benefits of exercise,” time.com, September 1, 2016.


Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus—the region of the brain responsible for memory and mood, writes neurogenesis researcher Wendy Suzuki, in her 2016 book, “Healthy Brain, Happy Life“. It also promotes gliogenesis—the production of support cells that connect neural cells in the prefrontal cortex, allowing them to work more efficiently. This is the region of the brain responsible for decision-making, attention, and personality.
According to Suzuki, you get the maximum effect from exercise first thing in the morning: “When do you want those growth factors in your brain working? You want them working when you get to work…. I was able to get much longer bouts of effective writing done on mornings when I worked out,” Suzuki says. “I pooped out much earlier on mornings I didn’t exercise.” Research also shows that those who are more sedentary, even if they are occasionally active, have lower structural integrity in the hippocampus. A consistent exercise program with variety is the key.

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