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Eating and exercise

Exercise and health - Exercise intensity - Eating and exercise

The bottom line is that both, type and  intensity of your exercise need to be in line with your caloric and nutritional intake, and both with your lifestyle and overall health. There is direct relationship between eating and exercise: while most folks turn it upside down, trying to compensate unhealthy dietary habits with exercise, exercise, together with a healthy diet, should be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you are on a typical nutrient-poor Western diet based on processed and junk foods, you are not likely to benefit from exercise - the opposite is more likely. It wouldn't even help you lose the weight: you'll simply eat more. And it takes very little to compensate for your caloric expenditure while exercising. For instance, if you are around 200 pounds, running 2 miles in 20 minutes will burn you 300 calories; playing tennis for half an hour will burn you little less, and half an hour of biking will burn little more.

Little more or little less, this is how much calories you'll get from each of the following:

two regular sodas (12 fl oz),

two ounces of potato chips,

1/2 cup (~100g) of ice cream,

10 fl oz of beer.

Of course, you could exercise more, but it is not very safe on the nutrient-depleted diet.

For one, the increased rate of energy production inevitably raises level of oxidation by free radicals it creates. If your level of antioxidants is inadequate, it will subject your body to more of oxidative damage, causing accelerated aging at best, or contributing to some form of degenerative disease down the road, at worst.

Assuming that you eat healthfully, your basic decision is what level of caloric intake - and appropriate exercise level - you should opt for. The optimum is, expectedly, in moderation: somewhere between low caloric intake, light forms of exercise and longest lifespan on one, and high caloric intake, vigorous exercise, best fitness level - and somewhat shorter lifespan...

In general, the more you eat,

the more you need to exercise,

and the other way around.

If you are eating more than you are willing - or able - to burn exercising, ask yourself what is it in your life that you are trying to compensate for with food, and address the problem directly. It may not be easy, but there is no way around it. Very often, food is a surrogate fulfillment for things you want but don't believe you can have. You get to use food for comforting and sheltering yourself from reality. Then it becomes a part of the surrogate life you're finding refuge in.

You can tolerate this as long as it doesn't hurt your body and health. If it does, you have something to work on.

While physical activity, in general, is definitely needed for optimum health, the level of activity should be adjusted so that

it burns the excess of calories

over the caloric level you need for your basal metabolism and regular physical activities. Of course,

no physical activity can healthfully compensate
for significant dietary excesses,

either in the caloric intake or over-consumption of nutritionally depleted foods, and the least for both. The more intense your exercising routine, the more important that your diet is both, complete nutrient-wise and well balanced. Otherwise, you are exposing yourself to potentially serious health risks.

Most people concentrate on protein intake. It is important but, chances are very good, your protein intake is already more than satisfactory. What may not be, is your mineral, vitamin, fat, carbohydrate (the latter two profile-wise) and general nutritional intake.

Again, keep in mind that exercise - and in particular aerobic exercises - exposes your body to elevated levels of oxidative damage. If you are low on antioxidant nutrients this could inflict damage to your health longer-term.

More so considering that most of us exercise in polluted air - indoor or outdoors. Since the volume of air you inhale during exercise is significantly larger, so is the effective contamination level. If you exercise regularly, it will add to your toxic load, especially if you are low on detox nutrients. This, again, may threaten your health down the road.

In all, exercise is not a magic stick that will give you good health. If your diet is poor nutritionally, or your lifestyle is unhealthy in some other way, it could actually hurt you. Since you never know what is your weakest link, it is wise to take exercise - as anything else - in moderation. Whichever form of regular exercise you choose, in order to prevent possible negative health effects, you need to

keep your body well hydrated,
and make sure your nutritional intake is adequate.

Lower caloric intake, combined with regular, light-to-moderate physical activity, is probably your best long-term bet. Low energy exercises, like yoga, t'ai chi, and qigong - which to some extent also incorporate meditation - may be the best exercise form, especially as you go past your prime, or are too weak for some more vigorous form. This type of exercise won't give you raw excitement of physically more challenging forms of exercise, but will do more to harmonize the way your body - and mind - work.

Side notes

All this - more intense exercising or, alternately, cutting down on food intake - may turn out to be unnecessarily demanding - and yet uncertain - way of preserving health and extending your lifespan. The secret of longevity

lies hidden inside your genetic code.

A study of centurions among the Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews population concluded that what they had in common wasn't healthy lifestyle - such as particularly healthy diet, or regular exercise (this is, actually, fairly consistent general fact) - but naturally elevated "good" (HDL) cholesterol. This may indicate that body disposes of cholesterol at a higher rate because it needs it less, due to a generally lover level of oxidative/inflammatory damage to blood vessels and cellular membranes in general (in other words, it is not that elevated HDL cholesterol is healthy, rather it becomes elevated due to healthy cellular membranes).

 Another study found similar length-of-life correlation with lower insulin levels. This may have a rationale in more efficient metabolic mode, requiring less energy to operate. It would imply lower caloric intake needed, and brings us back to well established fact that reduction in the caloric intake itself - especially if it results from low intake of high-glycemic foods - prolongs life. It could simply be that the body, on average, operates better on less, than on the excess.

Ultimately, assuming the body receives all it needs for proper functioning, longevity is determined by your genetic code. Experiments in which specific single gene was taken out of the genetic code of some simpler living forms (worms, etc.) resulted in the significant lifespan extension (Kenyon). The genes removed (or turned off) were key to the switch to less effective, lower-resistance metabolic mode, as a response to environmental exposure (such as, for instance, high-glycemic diet).

The effect of reduced caloric intake is thought of as being such a trigger - only the positive one - switching your genetic code into one of its more efficient, longevity modes. And such a trigger is - or can be, at least in part - proper exercise. If so, those who don't find exercising enjoyable won't need to do it; simple modification of their genetic mode by a futuristic doctor will give them the benefits of exercising, without sweating and aching muscles.

Apparently, there are multiple avenues of pursuing longevity, and they will become increasingly available with the advance in genetically based medicine.   



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