The Exercise Cure

TIME MAGAZINE, September 19, 2016, has done a cover story called The Exercise Cure: The Surprising Science of a Life-Changing Workout.

Doctors, researchers, scientists – even ancient philosophers – have long claimed exercise works like a miracle drug. Now they have proof. Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a genetic metabolic neurologist, is determined to prove that exercise can be used as medicine for even the sickest patients.

“Research paper, after paper, after paper shows that the most effective, potent way that we can improve the quality of life and duration of life is exercise.”
Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky

“If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.”

Statistics: Only 20% of Americans get the 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity per week.

Over 50% of baby boomers report doing no exercise at all, and 80.2 million Americans over the age of 6 are entirely inactive.

The scientific benefits of exercise – slower aging, better mood, less chronic pain, stronger vision – are real, measurable, and almost immediate.

To get the maximum benefits of exercise, you need to do both aerobic exercise and strength training. Aerobic exercise is the most popular form, and about 50% of Americans meet the minimum standards. However, only 20% of Americans meet the standards for strength training. What is misunderstood is that strength training can be achieved in a myriad of ways. Yoga, tai chi, and Pilates – not just pumping iron – are excellent forms of strength training.

Recent research is finding that exercise is also beneficial to the brain. Exercise is shown to be linked to less depression, better memory, and quicker learning. Studies also suggest that exercise is the best way to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, which is second only to cancer as the disease Americans fear most.

“I always tell people that exercise is regenerative medicine – restoring and repairing and basically fixing things that are broken.”
Marcus Bamman, exercise physiologist

A small new study suggests that moderate-intensity exercise (Pilates, tai chi, yoga, spin, and rowing) may slow down the aging of cells by as much as five years. As humans get older and their cells divide over and over again, their telomeres (the protective caps on the end of chromosomes) get shorter. Researchers took blood samples from 10 health people before and after a 45-minute ride on a stationary bicycle. They found that exercise increased levels of a molecule that protects telomeres.

“Lack of time is the number 1 reason people say that they do not exercise. However, a minimum amount of exercise can add five years to your life, so you can actually have more time.”
– Greg Simmons

Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician who runs a sports-medicine fellowship in California, has prescribed exercise to his patients since the early 1990s in hopes of prescribing less medication. “It really worked amazingly, particularly in my sickest patients,” he says. Dr. Sallis says that if he could get them to do it on a regular basis – anything that got their heart rate up a bit – he would see dramatic improvements in their chronic disease, depression, anxiety, mood, and energy levels.

It’s becoming evident that nearly everyone – young, old, pregnant, ill – benefits from exercise. Back at McMaster University, Tarnopolsky and his team are almost finished doing autopsies on their new mice. It is obvious which mice were allowed to exercise and which were sedentary. “You open up the sedentary mice and there’s fat all over the place” – and about half of those mice have tumors. As for the mice who hit the wheel every day? “We haven’t found a single tumor.”