Studies show that the more exercise is carried out, the more health benefits one reaps

1. WHAT ARE THE MEDICAL BENEFITS OF EXERCISE BEYOND WEIGHT CONTROL?
The main benefit of exercise is risk reduction of chronic disease occurrence. The health benefits of regular exercise are well known and undeniable. There is evidence from scientific research that the more exercise is performed, the more health benefits one reaps.

This is described as the dose-response relationship of exercise. Many people think that exercise is mainly to prevent obesity and for weight control. But the benefits go far beyond that.

The main purpose of exercise is to increase cardiorespiratory fitness. The health benefits of exercise is better in a person with a higher fitness level.

There are two diseases that are our concern — cardiovascular disease and cancer. These are preventable through lifestyle modification, with exercise as one of the major factors.


The main benefit of exercise is risk reduction of chronic disease occurrence. Photo from www.families.com.

Regular exercise is associated with a reduction of death of any cause by 30 per cent.

Regular exercise also reduces the risk of getting chronic diseases between 10 per cent and 60 per cent, as shown below:

Diseases - Risk reduction
Heart disease - 40 per cent

Hypertension - 52 per cent

Stroke - 30 per cent

Type 2 diabetes - 50 per cent

Obesity - 10 per cent

Breast cancer - 50 per cent

Bowel cancer - 60 per cent

Depression - 30 per cent

Dementia - 40 per cent

Osteoarthritis - 50 per cent

Osteoporosis - 40 per cent

It is interesting to note that exercise is able to prevent many chronic diseases. Some experts have described exercise as the real polypill for chronic diseases.

2. HOW MUCH EFFECT DOES EXERCISE HAVE ON DISEASES?
One review paper published in the Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine and Science In Sport in 2015 showed evidence that exercise has therapeutic effects in 26 chronic diseases.

In Malaysia, a few Clinical Practice Guidelines have described exercise as one of the important treatment options for diseases such as hypertension, type-2 diabetes, stable angina pectoris, obesity, depression and hyperlipidaemia.

In many situations, a trial of lifestyle modification, including exercise, is prescribed for early stages of a disease as the first line treatment.

In moderate to severe cases, a combination of lifestyle modification (including exercise) and pharmacological treatment may be necessary to treat chronic diseases.

In some early cases, exercise is as effective as medical treatment. Overall, exercise plays an important role in treating chronic diseases.

These are the effects of exercise treatment for some chronic diseases:

Disease - Effect of exercise

Hypertension
Reduction of systolic and diastolic blood pressure between five and 10 mmHg. The effect may be sustained for about 22 hours after exercise.

Type 2 diabetes
Improves insulin sensitivity, hence increasing glucose control. The effect on decreased body fat and improved lipid profile will further improve blood sugar control. Exercise is able to reduce 0.4-0.6 per cent of HbA1C level. The effect is as good as metformin therapy.

Hyperlipidaemia
Main effect of exercise is on HDL cholesterol. Exercise will increase HDL cholesterol to optimum level. Studies show that for 10 minutes increase in duration of exercise, HDL will increase by 1.4mg/dL (0.036mmol/L). The effect is modest.

Obesity
For weight reduction, the amount of exercise is between 300 and 450 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. Combination with diet control is necessary. Try to get more than 3,500 calorie deficits per week to get 0.5 kg weight reduction per week.

Ischemic heart disease
Exercise will reduce oxygen demand of cardiac muscle cells. This will increase the ischemic threshold. When the ischemic threshold increases, the risk of getting a heart attack is reduced.

Studies show that, 1,600 calorie worth of exercise per week will halt progression of coronary artery disease, and 2,000 calorie exercise per week is associated with plaque reduction in a person with heart disease.


Exercise may reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure between five and 10 mmHg. The effect may be sustained for about 22 hours after exercise. Photo from www.businessdayonline.com.

3. HOW MUCH EXERCISE IS REQUIRED TO REAP THESE BENEFITS?
In the middle of this year, the Health Ministry published new guidelines (www.infosihat.gov.my) targeted at the general public as well as those with chronic diseases.

They clearly show that the amount of exercise for patients with chronic diseases is similar to the healthy general population.

The minimum amount of exercise is 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise for five days a week, or 75 minutes per week high intensity exercise, or combination of both moderate and high intensity exercise.

That is about 30 minutes or 15 minutes per day of moderate or high intensity exercise, respectively, five days per week. The more exercise is performed, the better the health outcome.

Focus on increasing your fitness level. Try to do more high intensity exercises to increase fitness levels gradually.

The guidelines also recommend resistance exercises, two to three times per week.


Running is a good form of exercise.

HEAL WITH EXERCISE
AN AVID SPORTSMAN WHO BELIEVES IN THE HEALING POWER OF EXERCISE, ASSOC PROF DR AHMAD TAUFIK JAMIL IS UNIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MARA’S PUBLIC HEALTH CONSULTANT AND EXERCISE

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