We still live in an age where we expect instant cures- a pill or a shot NOW to fix our ailments. Yet, we overeat and live flaccid lives- which make us more susceptible to diseases. Recently, the government has suggested that we need 150 minutes of exercise a week and to give up sugary drinks. Not only does that work to reduce our girth- but data are now showing that exercise is critical to preclude- and improve- the treatment and rehabilitation of devastating diseases. We have known for years that exercise is a critical regimen in the treatment of cardiac patients. Many asthmatics have proven that swimming precludes attacks and alleviates symptoms. We can now expand the use of exercise to cancer, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s disease, and, even, dialysis patients.
We used to limit breast cancer survivors to lifting less than 15 pounds. Dr. Schmitz (University of Pennsylvania) and her research group have shown that slow, progressive weight lifting is not only safe, but beneficial. With their compromised lymphatic systems, localized fluid retention and tissue swelling (lymphedema) flared occasionally; this regimen precluded such flare-ups. The exercise may also reduce recurrence by some 40% (however, this part of the data needs more study).
Dr. Comella (Rush University Medical Center) has been involved with Parkinson’s Disease studies for years. She has now found (animal studies) that exercise can slow the process of cellular
loss associated with Parkinson’s; exercise helps with neuroplasticity and the ability of the brain to repair itself. It seems that exercise stimulates dopamine synthesis (reducing symptoms) and causes the release of neurotrophic factors and augments cerebral oxygenation that promotes cell growth and survival. Her studies will now progress to humans; personal trainers will be used to improve patient participation.
Dr. Wilund of the University of Illinois (Urbanna-Champaign) is conducting a study with dialysis patients in Champaign and Chicago (both sites of U of I campuses). With a more than $ 2 million NIH grant, he will lead the study to determine if bicycling (with some protein supplements) during dialysis therapy helps. The anemic dialysis patients, who suffer from a loss of muscle tissue, will be studied to see if this regimen reverses such trends. (Dialysis does remove amino acids [unintended circumstances, again], which is why protein supplements are part of the regimen.] The research will also see if vascular calcification will be reversed (blood vessel constriction and dilation affects blood pressure; blood pressure control is important in dialysis). Part of this study will include personal trainers to induce the patients to use the modified bicycle units.
Exercise is able to work at both the physical and emotional levels; it has been found to reduce aggression and perfectionist tendencies. But, the real trick in getting it to work is to choose specific goals (improve blood pressure, reduce blood sugar by 10 points) and employing a personal trainer to keep the patient (or us) on track. Studies as to the mode and duration of exercise are critical, too. Many physicians have been leery of providing a stressor to the body during life-threatening illnesses. However, as you can see, the data clearly indicates that the avoidance of inactivity is essential. Let’s get moving…