No medication even comes close to exhibiting equal pain relieving benefits as exercise and it has virtually no negative side effects. Exercise has been shown to be just as effective as prescription medication for managing pain (1). There are numerous benefits for your health and some of the most well-known benefits include:
- Reversing obesity
- Managing diabetes
- Boosts metabolism
- Improving muscle strength
- Increasing joint stability
- Preserving bone density
Take a moment now to think of your own life and habits. Out of the 24-hours in each day, how much of that time are you sedentary versus active? Choose the option below which best describes you and then read on…
- I sit all day and never exercise.
- I am mostly sedentary at work but get up and move at lunch.
- I am mostly sedentary at work but find ways to move throughout the day.
- After work, I make sure to exercise.
If you answered A, this article will give you the information and motivation you need to start moving. Here is a video that will help you get a little more movement at work. If you answered B or C you’re kinda in the middle and this article will help you. If you answered D you’re awesome! Keep up the good work! How Does Exercise Alleviate Pain? Exercise is not limited to only providing us with the above benefits. Here are five major benefits of exercise.
Benefit #1: Exercise is a Powerful and Natural Anti-inflammatory
How does exercise decrease inflammation and pain when it actually creates inflammation? To understand this oxymoron of exercise, you must first know what inflammation is and how it works. Your body’s immune system uses an acute inflammatory response to repair your muscles after intense exercise. When you engage in exercise, your muscle cells are put under an extraordinary amount of stress causing them to change drastically at a structural and chemical level. As a result, your immune system sends macrophages to the area to aid in the remodeling process of your muscles. These macrophages have the ability to either be inflammatory or anti-inflammatory depending on the molecular signals being sent to them by their environment. Exercise causes macrophages to take on an anti-inflammatory role not only in your muscles but throughout your entire body including your liver and adipose tissue (2). These macrophages consume cells that are affected by exercise or acute stress and pave the way for new vascular and skeletal muscle tissue to be produced (3). You could compare this process to remodeling a house. If there has been a flood in a house, the water has probably had a great effect on various parts of the house. You would want to replace the affected parts of the house, but in order to do this, you must first remove all of the affected material. Once the house has been cleaned out, you will then be able to replace all of the affected areas of the house with new materials improving the strength and stability of the house. Exercise-induced inflammation works similarly by renewing your cells to be better adapted for the stressors of your environment.
Benefit #2: Exercise is a Proven Antidepressant and Painkiller
Have you ever heard of a “runner’s high”? You may be wondering what would cause someone to experience such euphoria while engaging in an activity that is often perceived as painful and uncomfortable. The main culprits behind this phenomenon are the endorphins (opioid peptides and endocannabinoids) produced by the brain. Endorphins interfere with messages being sent to your brain from nerves by binding to opioid receptors and blocking the release of pain stimulating neurotransmitters. These chemical produced by your brain behave similarly to the chemicals in marijuana but without the side effects. These endorphins have been shown to elevate mood and reduce anxiety to put you in a more relaxed and pain-free state (4). When you think of someone who is depressed, you probably don’t picture them out running, playing, or being active. People who are depressed are typically less active than usual, and people who are inactive are prone to becoming depressed. How does this relationship between depression and exercise work? Exercise stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which increases the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. The concentration of these neurotransmitters throughout your body is drastically increased during and after exercise causing you to feel more motivated, focused, and poised rather than depressed, anxious, and fearful when exposed to specific stimuli in your environment. If exercise does not have a place in your daily routine, you may be missing out on the psychological benefits that come from exercise through the production of these powerful neurotransmitters. Try working in some gentle exercise a few times a week and notice the improvement. Try working in some gentle exercise a few times a week and notice the improvement! Click To Tweet
Benefit #3: Exercise Makes You Smarter and Improves Cognitive Functioning
Do you want to score better on a test or maintain a strong memory as you age? Exercise is going to be crucial in helping you meet these goals. What one of the most amazing impacts exercise has on our bodies is its ability to cause a process called neurogenesis. During the process of neurogenesis, new neurons are created in the hippocampus of the brain. The hippocampus is the location of the brain where most operations related to learning or memory are conducted. Due to the acute stress that is generated from exercise, calcium rushes into neurons causing the BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) gene to be expressed. This gene codes for the production of BDNF proteins that lead to neurogenesis protecting and regenerating the nerve cells of your brain and the rest of your body. Studies have found that active subjects were able to regenerate more sciatic nerve axons post-injury than sedentary subjects, and this effect was absent when the subjects were injected with neurotrophin-blocking agents. This proves that exercise is linked to an increased ability to regenerate neurons by stimulating the BDNF gene and could be beneficial in preventing or reversing the loss of neurons associated with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease (5).
Benefit #4: Exercise Gives You Energy
If you think back to high school biology, you may remember that the mitochondria are the organelles in your cells that are responsible for energy production. Your muscle cells are full of mitochondria due to their continuous need for ATP energy. Mitochondria use glucose and oxygen to generate energy. The number and size of mitochondria present throughout your body are directly related to your ability to produce energy. How can we increase the number of mitochondria in our bodies? There is an extensive amount of evidence that indicates exercise’s ability to stimulate mitochondrial reproduction, increase mitochondrial size, and improve oxidative capacity (6). For your muscles to adapt to the added stress that exercise places on them, they must be able to maximize their ability to use up the glucose and oxygen that is flowing through your bloodstream to create a maximum amount of energy. Your muscles can accomplish this goal by stimulating the biogenesis of mitochondria during exercise. Once these new mitochondria are created, your body continues to maintain the presence of these mitochondria as long as they are seen to be necessary. Therefore, if you continue to exercise regularly, the number of mitochondria scattered throughout your body continues to increase building your ability to tolerate exercise and increasing your energy levels over the course of each day.
Benefit #5: Exercise Turns on Powerful Genes for Health
How much control do you really have over your genes? It is commonly believed by people in our society that we are predestined to having a certain level of health based on the genes that we were given by our parents. Fortunately, our genes have the ability to adapt to our environments turning themselves on and off depending on what proteins are needed to be produced. If you have been told that you have a family history of heart disease, breast cancer, or any other form of disease, there is no need to worry. It has been shown that a healthy lifestyle that includes a sufficient amount of exercise helps suppress genes that are associated with disease and upregulate the production of proteins from genes that are working to improve and maintain your health (7). Chromosomes are structures within the nucleus of your cells that are composed of DNA wrapped into coils. At the end of these chromosomes, there are structures called telomeres that protect your chromosomes from degrading during the replication process. Exercise has been shown to increase the amount of telomerase, an enzyme responsible for the maintenance of telomeres, preventing the development of chronic diseases (8). By exercising and practicing a healthy lifestyle overall, you will able to create a new family history of health rather than chronic pain and disease. By practicing a healthy lifestyle you'll be able to create a new family history of health rather than chronic pain. Click To Tweet
How to Get Started Moving
It’s amazing how much of an impact exercise can have on your life, and I hope that you are now motivated to incorporate it into your daily routine. If you’re having trouble getting started or you are looking for some extra support here are some quick tips:
- Build a support group: get together with your friends and family who enjoy moving. All of you could set a time on certain days throughout the week to come together and exercise whether it be walking, playing sports, or going for a nice jog.
- Be creative: there are endless ways to get a sufficient amount of exercise, and I encourage you to find an activity you enjoy.
- Don’t give up: regardless of any challenges that you are faced with, there is always a way for you to get the exercise and movement you need. If you need any additional support, I am always here to help.
Remember, reversing pain requires an integrated approach. If you need help to better understand what to eat, how to move, or how your thoughts and emotions affect your pain, I hope you’ll consider attending my Free Webinar on Healing Pain Naturally. You’ll learn how to use the power of your mind to heal; as well how nutrition and gentle movement can reverse your pain. Does this sound like something you need? This webinar will provide you with the info to change your life, almost immediately. Sign-up for the free webinar here (I’ll email you a recording, too!)