Exercise Protects Against Disease

May 13, 2011 in Diabetes, Fitness, Health, Weight Management by Mary Ireland

Dr. Grandma’s Newsletter for May, 2011, notes that health-related observances in May include Osteoporosis Prevention and Arthritis Awareness. In researching information about these diseases, I found a common thread: exercise can help prevent or help in the management of these diseases. This isn’t surprising since exercise is a prescription for the diseases we write about most in the Foodland Chronicles: diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. In this blog, I’d like to share some of the data about how exercise is beneficial in fighting disease.


Exercise is important for healthy joints. According to a report by the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, exercise:

  • strengthens muscles; strong muscles help support joints
  • helps control joint swelling and pain.
  • replenishes lubrication to the cartilage of the joint when done consistently.
  • reduces stiffness and pain.
  • helps to enhance energy and stamina by decreasing fatigue and improving sleep.
  • can enhance weight loss and promote long-term weight management, thereby reducing pressure on the joints.
  • helps keep joints mobile

Exercise may offer additional arthritis benefits. As Dr. Steven Blair, Exercise Epidemiologist and Director of Epidemiology at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas TX notes "Skeletal muscle is the largest organ in the body and is intricately tied with protein turnover and synthesis and many other metabolic and biochemical functions. Activating skeletal muscle has many important health benefits we are only beginning to understand."


Fibromyalgia is a disease listed under the umbrella of the National Arthritis Foundation. The symptoms of fibromyalgia are often similar to those of arthritis. Thursday, May 12 is International Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. Fibromyalgia is common and complex chronic pain disorder; the symptoms include chronic widespread pain, multiple tender points, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbances, fatigue and often psychological distress.

According to the WebMD site, exercise was once thought to worsen fibromyalgia symptoms or accelerate the disease and was discouraged. Doctors encouraged patients to seek rest, not activity. But recent scientific studies have shown that for most patients, range of motion, strengthening, and aerobic conditioning exercises are safe and necessary. One very important benefit of exercise is the increase in serotonin levels associated with exercise. Serotonin can increase the patient’s pain threshold and contribute to a positive mood state or feeling good over a period of time. Lack of exercise and inactivity can aggravate low serotonin levels.

Results in a study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine report progressive walking, simple strength training movements, and stretching activities improve functional status, key symptoms, and self-efficacy in women with fibromyalgia actively being treated with medication. The benefits of exercise are enhanced when combined with targeted self-management education.


According to a Linus Pauling Institute Research Report bone is a dynamic living tissue that gets stronger when stressed and weaker when not used. Physically active people, especially those who incorporate weight- bearing exercise such as walking, jogging, running and jumping rope generally have higher bone mass densities than people who are sedentary. Strength training is also an important activity for increasing or maintaining bone mass because it increases the amount of force that muscles exert on bones. Strength training has also been found to prevent falls—the most common cause of hip and wrist fractures—in people even in their 90s. Activities that improve coordination and balance, such as Tai Chi, Pilates, and yoga may also help prevent falls.

A study in The Archives of Internal Medicine reports that exercise programs that include warm-up/endurance, jumping, strength, and flexibility sequences significantly improve strength and endurance and reduce bone loss, back pain, and lipid levels in women who are already experiencing bone loss in their critical early postmenopausal years. See the National Osteoporosis Foundation site for exercise recommendations.

Cardiovascular Disease/Diabetes/Obesity

According to a Mayo Clinic Report regular physical activity can help you:

  • prevent — or manage — high blood pressure.
  • boost high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol while decreasing triglycerides thus lowering the buildup of plaques in your arteries.
  • prevent type 2 diabetes by increasing glucose uptake by the muscles.
  • help manage your weight.

Recent studies have found that exercising first thing in the morning can improve triglyceride levels throughout the day. Triglycerides, which are major components of very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), play an important role in metabolism as energy sources and are transporters of dietary fat. High levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream have been linked to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and, by extension, the risk of heart disease and stroke. Typically, when triglyceride levels are high, levels of HDL (the “good cholesterol) are low. Holly Wyatt, MD, an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, cautions that it is important to exercise consistently regardless of the time of day. If you can exercise before breakfast, fine; otherwise, find a time and intensity level that works for you. Additional research on exercise and cholesterol also supports the finding that cardiovascular disease risk is reduced as a result of exercise.

Fortunately for us, exercise -- coupled with good nutrition -- is a prescription for avoiding (or living more comfortably with) a number of diseases. There are so many good reasons to exercise and not a lot of valid excuses not to. Start today, you will feel better and your body will benefit.

Sesame Asparagus-Broccoli Stir Fry

My friend gave me some fresh asparagus from her garden and it tastes so great. I made this recipe - stir fry for two. If you are serving more you can double or quadruple the recipe.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 inch piece of fresh ginger grated
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 cup parsley
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
12 asparagus stalks cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup broccoli chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sweetener of your choice
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 cups cooked wheat berries


Heat olive oil in skillet. Add ginger and garlic to oil in skillet. Saute for five minutes. Stir in curry powder and turmeric. Add asparagus, broccoli and parsley. Cook until broccoli is tender - about 5 minutes. Add water as needed to help cook the vegetables.

Stir in soy sauce, sweetener and lime juice. Spoon over cooked wheat berries. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Asparagus, broccoli, parsley, ginger and garlic.

Chopped, grated and minced.

Add turmeric and curry to the sauteed vegetables.

Add asparagus, broccoli and water. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add lime juice, soy sauce and Delight.

Top with sesame seeds and serve.