Hello everyone Floyd Meyer here I am a Physician Assistant with a Master’s in public health, a degree in molecular biology, and I am currently working in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Today we are continuing our series on Resilience which is the ability to remain well, recover, or even thrive in the face of adversity.
This week we are going to shift gears. We have done a deep dive into how nutrition affects resilience, so if you haven’t seen those yet make sure to check them out, but now are going to focus on how physical fitness impacts resilience, the mechanisms behind this, and at the end we will discuss the best type of exercise to improve resilience.
Most people are well aware of the positive effects of being physically fit, and the scientific literature is full of studies showing these effects. In fact, in a review article Silverman et al state that “Promoting physical fitness as a pathway to resilience is based on solid, scientific evidence, as noted in many ancient and current sources.” (Silverman et al., 2014)
Physical fitness optimizes stress reactivity, confers physiological and psychological benefits, and serves as a buffer against stress; all possible mechanisms that can protect against the development of stress-related disorders and chronic illness.
From heart disease to obesity, cancer, anxiety, even infections like pneumonia, all can be impacted by having either a high or low level of physical fitness.
So why does being physically fit play such an important role in our overall resilience to this wide range of possible diseases?
This is likely due to the numerous beneficial effects of physical activity. “Physical fitness, achieved through regular exercise and/or spontaneous physical activity, can protect against the development of chronic stress- and inflammatory related disease by optimizing physiological and neuroendocrine stress responsivity, promoting an anti-inflammatory state, and enhancing neuroplasticity and growth factor expression.” (Silverman et al., 2014)
In other words, physical fitness can improve our ability to buffer against the stressors of the world, it reduces inflammation, and increase the ability of our brains to adapt to new stressors.
All pretty amazing stuff from just getting outside and moving your body. Now you may be asking, how much exercise do I need in order to get these benefits? Do I need to be doing intense exercise every day or is a walk around the block enough?
Luckily the department for Health and Human Services has created clear guidelines for how much physical activity is recommended for Americans. They state that:
• Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.
• For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
• Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
• Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits. (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, 2018)
These guidelines are pretty clear in stating that more activity is better for your overall health. But still, you may be asking what the best types of activities to improve resilience are? Should I be running, walking, biking, swimming, weightlifting, or yoga? The answer is…
The one that you will actually do.
What matters is that you are consistently getting the recommended amount of physical activity a week. Not if you are doing the latest hex bar deadlift variation, or the newest hot yoga class.
Pick something that you actually enjoy doing. That way you will continue to show up week after week and get all those amazing benefits that exercise can provide.
If you like to run then keep doing that. If you like doing yoga keep doing that. If you like to bike, swim, lift weights just keep showing up and getting your heart pumping.
Consistency is KING.
Doing a new workout routine is not going to keep you resilient if you don’t stick to it. We know that yo-yo dieting doesn’t work and neither does yo-yo exercising. Exercising weekly for one year doesn’t help you when you stop for the next five. You must be consistent.
Find the type of exercise that you enjoy and do that.
“The benefits of physical activity include a reduced risk of many of the most common, severe, and expensive health outcomes (eg, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, dementia, type 2 diabetes, cancer, depression, and fall-related injuries in older adults). (Powell et al., 2019)
“Additionally, people who exercise regularly report a higher quality of life and improved health status—both physically and mentally.” (Silverman et al., 2014)
Physical activity recommendations state that we should get at least 2.5-5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week as well as some form of muscle strengthening activity, but what is most important is consistency so find that type of exercise you most enjoy and do that.
I hope that this has been helpful. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below. If this resonated with you please share with your friends and family and subscribe and follow for more of this content. The time for action is now. Again this is Floyd Meyer. Have a great day!
Gebel, K., Ding, D., Chey, T., Stamatakis, E., Brown, W. J., & Bauman, A. E. (2015). Effect of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity on All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged and Older Australians. JAMA Internal Medicine,175(6), 970. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0541
Kohl, H. W., Craig, C. L., Lambert, E. V., Inoue, S., Alkandari, J. R., Leetongin, G., & Kahlmeier, S. (2012). The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health. The Lancet, 380(9838), 294–305. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(12)60898-8
Powell, K. E., King, A. C., Buchner, D. M., Campbell, W. W., DiPietro, L., Erickson, K. I., … Whitt-Glover, M. C. (2019). The Scientific Foundation for the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 16(1), 1–11. doi:10.1123/jpah.2018-0618
Silverman, M. N., & Deuster, P. A. (2014). Biological mechanisms underlying the role of physical fitness in health and resilience. Interface Focus, 4(5), 20140040–20140040. doi:10.1098/rsfs.2014.0040
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018.