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Exercise in a pill?


IF THERE was a pill that would be an effective substitute for daily physical exercise to maintain health and stamina, wouldn’t you prefer it?

Most people would, of course! Even scientists, who know the value of exercise to our body and health, are trying to find ways to come up with an effortless way that could be a “replacement” for exercise, like a special pill that will have the impact of physical exercises on our body and conferring us good health, with an extra benefit of lowering our body fat, without actually doing exercises. In other word, they are searching for “exercise in a pill.”

Indeed, most of us want the easy way out! Imagine burning fats faster, losing weight with no pain, and staying healthy by simply taking pills daily, sans exercise!

That day may not be soon but it could be coming. Reluctant exercise practitioners are already drooling for this new and preliminary discovery of a fat-burning hormone (produced by our own muscles) with benefits that mimic the effects of physical exercise on the body.

Studies at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, headed by Bruce Spiegelman and Pontus Bostrom, “discovered a hormone that mimics some of the results of a workout by facilitating the transformation of white fat into brown fat.”

White fat leads to accumulation of excess calories, obesity, hardening of the arteries, and brown fats produces a fat-burning hormone called Irisin, which could also be helpful in preventing obesity and diabetes. This hormone surges in the circulating blood during physical exercises, after 3 weeks of running on a wheel in mice, and after ten weeks of systematic exercise among humans.

The preliminary report says “the treatment also had a positive effect on the regulation of blood sugar levels, which links the hormone to diabetes prevention.”

The investigating team also “plans to investigate the potential of irisin in the treatment of diseases such as muscular dystrophy and muscle wasting… hoping that this hormone may embody some of the other benefits of exercise, perhaps in the neuromuscular system.”

However, while I, too, am excited about this new hormone, I personally believe that physical exercise has more than just the simple and known effects of working out our muscles in the body. Knowing how our body naturally functions and responds, I think there are more good subtle benefits to the body conferred by physical exercise than meet the eye, or known to science at this point in time.

The hormone, which someday might be proven beneficial could become a commonly accepted “artificial exercise in a pill” but the immobility that would result might lead to negative effects of sedentary lifestyle on our body anyway, which we see a lot of today. Combining the “exercise pill” with actual exercise (which could perhaps be reduced then) might then be the answer. Of course, we are only thinking aloud and postulating here.

We certainly look forward to any progress and advances in medical science and technology with eager anticipation.

Is jogging passé?

While we still see some people jogging for health, this art of physical exercise is getting less popular and gradually being replaced by brisk walking. This is especially true among the baby boomers, following pertinent and alarming medical statistics that linked jogging to may injuries to various joints, tendons, and ligaments, especially of the knees. Other damages were seen in hip and ankle as the joggers get into their fifties and sixties. The years of stress from jogging do take their toll. It is obvious that while most animals like cheetah, antelopes, lions, horses, etc., were born to run, man was meant to walk, as his natural anatomy and physiology suggest.

Since clinical findings have shown that brisk confers the same cardiovascular, musculo-skeletal, and neuro-hormonal benefits as jogging, minus the attendant joint injuries, physicians and most sports experts are leaning more towards recommending brisk walking as a form of regular physical exercise for health, stamina, and fitness.

Although the jogging addict will continue to take the known risks, braving it and going against proven medical odds may not be wise and lead to otherwise preventable injuries and suffering later in life.

Exercise and sex

Exercise is man’s invention, inspired and triggered by his natural instinct and physiology to be active. Since physical activity stimulates the secretion of the “feel-good” hormone in our body, the same hormone that provides joy when we eat chocolate or our favorite food, our senses are soothed and the body feels better following physical activity, either regimented exercise or dancing or just fooling around. Even cavemen knew the effects of being mobile.

Regular physical exercise has been proven beyond doubt to strengthen our immune system at the DNA level, cardiovascular, musculo-skeletal, gastrointestinal, and neuro-hormonal systems. As an extra bonus, regimented activities, like sports or simple brisk walking daily, also improve the individual’s sexual performance and pleasure. This includes those persons with diabetes, high blood pressure, and recovered post-surgical patients, and, of course, especially those who are at the prime of health.

While a low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-carbohydrate, high-fiber diet, together with abstinence from tobacco, moderation in alcohol intake, and stress management are essential ingredients in the recipe for healthy lifestyle for the prevention of a host of diseases, including cancer, physical exercise is a major spice, a must, in the menu in our quest for health and longevity.

Indeed, the pursuit of good health is not for sissies.

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