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Physical Activity is a Requirement for Proper Body Functions

Physical activity is an essential biological stimulus for the development and maintenance of healthy structures and functions of the human body. Long standing lack of sufficient physical activity leads to weaknesses and degeneration of structures and aberrations in metabolism that lead to and appear as functional deficiencies and diseases in a variety of organ systems. Medical research provides data to formulate guidelines as to the amount of physical activity and particularly the energy expenditure caused by it that is necessary to prevent the development of various diseases including cardiovascular disease.

During recent decades many advances in technology have facilitated the need for less energy expenditure during occupational and domestic activities and transportation. Physical activity during leisure time has only partially compensated and has resulted in insufficient activity to sustain health in most populations of the world. This has been especially noted in the Western and more affluent areas of the world.

According to research reported in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, February 2014, Exercise profoundly influences virtually all aspects of human biology.

Over the past hundred years, the science of exercise has grown from seminal discoveries documenting the effects of exercise intensity on vascular control, heat production, oxygen requirement, and lactic acid dynamics to our modern understanding that one's cardiorespiratory fitness is among the most powerful predictors of morbidity and mortality.

Exercise training ­ regularly performed, prescriptive, dose ­ titratable physical activity ­ is increasingly used as adjunctive therapy across a wide range of human diseases consequent to now ­ documented improvements in cardiac function, muscle oxidative capacity, metabolic health, glucose and lipid homeostasis, adiposity, inflammatory burden, muscle mass and strength, joint pain, mobility function, depression, anxiety, and cognition.

Medical science has clearly revealed that poor fitness and little physical activity are major causes of chronic noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, and some cancers. These conditions account for more than 60% of all deaths. It is indeed ironic that hundreds of billions of dollars annually are lost in productivity and health care expenditures related to morbidity and mortality of these preventable diseases.

Exercise activates a complex array of coordinated cellular and molecular processes involving a wide array of signaling networks and transcriptional regulators that differentially affect virtually every human tissue and organ system.

Given our current understanding of the importance of regular physical activity, it seems to be recklessly irresponsible not to be prudent stewarts of our most valuable asset, our health.

Paul Block, MD, FACP, FCCP

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