The Daily Dose
Next time you're trying to decide if you should exercise or not because you just "don't feel like it," consider this: In a study at University of Missouri-Columbia, researchers found that mice deprived of exercise for only two days had a 30% reduction in insulin effectiveness as measured by the amount of glucose content in their muscles. The implication? Regular exercise is required to keep your body's engine running smoothly and efficiently. Researchers had mice run on exercise wheels for three weeks and then deprived them of their activity -- enforced lethargy, if you will -- for up to two days. Amazingly, in just that short time, the mice's sensitivity to insulin dropped. Insulin works by removing glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream, transporting it into the muscles and other tissues where it then binds to receptors on the muscle wall that make it possible for the muscle to turn glucose into energy. Among active people, this system is highly efficient, but in non-exercisers, that's not the case -- they have fewer receptors in the muscles for binding insulin, and this makes the process of transferring glucose to muscles for energy production sluggish. Sluggish energy production translates into lack of energy, weight gain and increased blood sugar levels. As I said above, the results were striking -- in the newly lethargic mice, the amount of glucose their insulin took to the muscles decreased by one-third. I talked with the study's author, Frank Booth, PhD, professor of biomedical sciences and director of the MU Health Activity Center. Dr. Booth says that although this was a mouse study, a similar study on humans also has shown rapid changes in insulin insensitivity with inactivity. He adds that even among people with a high genetic risk for diabetes, studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce their risk of developing the disease by 40%. This clearly shows that the rule of exercise is to do it nearly every day. But the question remains, "How much?" Dr. Booth says that getting Americans to exercise presents a challenge that requires changing the culture of a car society. Unfortunately, in our mechanized, computerized, remote-controlled society, people don't need to be physical to accomplish their tasks. Dr. Booth suggests that it's not necessary to "work out" each day -- it's necessary to be physical each day. Walk, climb stairs, do yard work, sweep the garage, vacuum the rugs -- these are all physical activities that make the body move. Start there... and then you can work your way up to a more structured exercise regimen. Just don't do nothing.