Exercise! We all know of its proven health benefits. Even though there are many theories about how much, how long, how intense or how frequently folks should exercise, there is no doubt that engaging in some regular form of physical activity reduces the risks of chronic, degenerative diseases. Exercise can improve mood, balance hormones, improve energy and keep metabolism humming. The mechanisms involved are complex and interconnected: All systems are on deck, including the musculoskeletal, neurological and endocrine systems.
The Risks Of Intense Exercise
But what kind of exercise is best? Can some exercise actually be harmful? These are complex questions and the answers may depend on a variety of factors, but what we do know is this: The normal stresses produced during prolonged, intense exercise sometimes can have damaging effects on tissues. You’ve heard me talk about oxidative stress and free radical damage, the production of reactive molecules that can harm delicate cell membranes and tissues, causing inflammation and reducing optimal function. Exercise, especially intense physical exertion, increases the production of these free radical molecules. Depletion of antioxidants, nutrients and electrolytes can also occur.
I always recommend gentle exercise over extreme sports. For example, activities such as walking, yoga and tai chi can be less stressful; but they are shown in studies to offer numerous exercise-related benefits, including metabolic control, immune enhancement and reduced risks of chronic diseases.
However, many of us still want or need to perform high-level physical activities in life; for work, sports or just for fun. If that’s the case, there’s good news: Research shows that certain nutrients and botanicals can reduce levels of oxidative stress normally produced during exercise, providing protection for cells and tissues.
For example, a 2009 study in the European Journal of Pharmacology looked at the compound honokiol, isolated from the traditional Chinese herb magnolia bark, known for its potent antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. In the study, researchers had rats perform an intense exercise regimen both with and without oral intake of honokiol. In the untreated group of rats, they found that the exercise regimen produced a number of effects, including muscle damage, oxidative damage to cell membranes and significant inflammation. However, supplementation with honokiol before the exercise significantly reduced damages.
This is excellent news for both weekend warriors and elite athletes. Honokiol’s ability to prevent normal inflammation from extended exercise could offer significant benefits for those engaged in high-level physical activities. Other preclinical studies have shown that honokiol has an impressive antioxidant capacity 1,000 times more potent than vitamin E.
Optimizing Exercise For Weight And Metabolism
We all know that exercise is crucial for weight loss as well as maintaining a healthy weight. Keys to proper weight control involve maintaining healthy blood glucose levels as well as sensitivity of cells to the hormone insulin. Exercise plays an important role in these aspects of metabolic health. Research has shown that exercise can increase cells’ sensitivity to insulin for 12 to 24 hours! Great news: The whole metabolic system involving insulin/blood sugar regulation is made more efficient. However, those with insulin-dependent diabetes (type 1 diabetes), need to exercise under the guidance of a healthcare provider to avoid dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar.
The more common type 2 diabetes, caused by insulin resistance, typically develops later in life and is closely linked to obesity. And fat cells themselves do more than simply add weight; they also produce hormones and inflammatory compounds that circulate throughout the body, producing a number of metabolic disturbances — a vicious cycle.
Clearly, reducing fat accumulation offers wide-ranging health benefits. Results of a July 2013 study showed that honokiol extract reduces fat accumulation, insulin resistance and inflammation in fat cells.
Additional Herbs And Nutrients
Other nutrients and botanicals can complement regular exercise and a healthy diet to balance metabolism, promote weight loss and support vital energy. Top recommendations include chromium; alpha lipoic acid; and herbs such as gymnema, cassia bark (cinnamon) and fenugreek seed. These and other ingredients are included in my comprehensive metabolic formula, designed to support metabolic health from multiple angles.
Green tea also has an excellent metabolism-enhancing effect. Piperine, found in black pepper and traditionally added to herbal formulas to enhance absorption of other herbs, has been shown to enhance metabolism and prevent fat accumulation.
Medicinal mushrooms are another great companion for those wanting to increase stamina and energy, improve exercise recovery, fine tune metabolism, detoxify, lose weight and support immune function. Mushrooms can boost production of cellular energy, support beneficial gut bacteria, promote good circulation, remove toxins, reduce fat absorption in the diet, offer antioxidant protection and help balance blood sugar levels.
Along with a healthy diet, there are a number of proven allies that can help us lose weight, promote healthy metabolic function and enhance our physical fitness routines. These natural solutions can also boost other long-term areas of health to keep us moving throughout life with ease.
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1.Eur J Pharmacol. 2009 May 21;610(1-3):119-27. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2009.03.035. Epub 2009 Mar 20.
Honokiol protects rats against eccentric exercise-induced skeletal muscle damage by inhibiting NF-kappaB induced oxidative stress and inflammation.
Chiang J, Shen YC, Wang YH, Hou YC, Chen CC, Liao JF, Yu MC, Juan CW, Liou KT.
2. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Jul 31. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201300113. [Epub ahead of print]
Long-term supplementation of honokiol and magnolol ameliorates body fat accumulation, insulinresistance, and adipose inflammation in high-fat fed mice.
Kim YJ, Choi MS, Cha BY, Woo JT, Park YB, Kim SR, Jung UJ.