Running helps against everything
Exercise does you good. That’s clear. Various studies now show how walking or walking can help against cancer, back pain, osteoporosis and depression.
Distrust is indicated when a remedy or a method is supposed to prevent, improve or even cure several very different diseases. Such miracle cures usually only help the manufacturer. But there is one exception.
A single method can help against such diverse conditions as cardiovascular disease, cancer, back pain and osteoporosis, depression and many more. In addition, the procedure, properly applied, has virtually no side effects, it costs nothing and manufacturer is yourself.
His name’s Movement. It has long been known that physical activity is good against cardiovascular diseases. What is relatively new, however, is the realisation that lack of exercise promotes so many different ailments. So you can literally run away from them.
And quite new is also a scientifically based good news: If someone is not in the mood for sport, he or she does not have to chastise himself or herself with marathon or triathlon. If you go for a brisk walk or take a bicycle instead of a car for all your errands, perhaps even for the journey to work, you will already have considerable health benefits. The state of research on the subject of physical activity and health is now summarised in the Bundesgesundheitsblatt (issue 1/2012), in a good dozen scientific articles.
It all began with the famous London double-decker study. It was already published in 1953 in the trade journal Lancet. It was noticeable that twice as many of the bus drivers who were constantly behind the wheel died from cardiovascular diseases as the controllers who walked through the bus all day long. There was, however, one systematic mistake: when setting up the bus, the heavyweights had been selected for the driver’s seat and the agile lightweights for the ongoing ticket control. Later, however, many methodically clean studies with a total of hundreds of thousands of participants came to the same conclusion: among the physically active, about a third less died of cardiovascular diseases than among the comfortable couch potatoes.
The consequences are various official recommendations: Even moderate exercise, such as half an hour’s walking a day, considerably reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack, for example. Even if you only start walking at an advanced age.
The risk of cancer can be significantly reduced
Exercise is also beneficial for the other large group of chronic diseases that dominate today: cancer. This is still little known, and the benefits are not as well documented as they are for the heart. Now however Heidelberger cancer researchers could evaluate 60 studies alone over large intestine cancer and movement and 70 studies over cancer of the breast and movement in two articles of the topic booklet.
The result: The risk of developing these common cancers can be significantly reduced by physical activity: by 20 to 30 percent for colon cancer – this is best assured – probably by 10 to 20 percent for breast cancer before menopause and by 20 to 30 percent after menopause. Probably – the study results are not yet completely certain – exercise also prevents cancer of the uterus, prostate, lungs and pancreas. The course of the disease is also favorably influenced by sufficient exercise. This is best proven in breast and colon cancer.
Those who move also promote their bone strength. And those who have been doing sport since childhood and remain active later prevent osteoporosis, bone loss in old age and the risk of fractures. This has also been proven by numerous studies.
It is now almost common knowledge that banal back pain does not improve through gentle exercise, but through movement. What is less well known is that physical activity also promotes mental health. In the Outpatient Centre of the Institute for Medical Psychology of the University of Hamburg there is a special department for sports and movement medicine. The working group located there summarizes the state of research: Physical activity has a positive influence on emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression as well as on cognitive functions, i.e. on feeling and thinking.
Movement, for example, can brighten the mood. “Physical training can have a similar effect on depression as drug therapy,” the scientists write. In an American comparative study, it was even more effective than an antidepressant. However, the depressives, most of whom have weak impulses, must first be motivated to engage in physical activity and overcome mental paralysis.
Also the mental abilities remain longer for the physically active. An analysis of 22 studies with over 33,000 participants showed that those who enjoyed exercise “had up to 39 percent less risk of developing cognitive impairments than physically inactive”. However, physical training not only has a preventive effect; dementia patients also benefit from it, most of all those already severely impaired, as the evaluation of 30 studies showed. The effect is about as strong as that of drugs for dementia and cognitive training, so as a homo movens you stay homo sapiens longer.
By Rosemarie Stein ZEIT-online – 14. März 2012
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