We’ve all heard that regular exercise is good for our physical and mental well-being. It has been lauded as disease-preventing. It helps maintain a healthy body weight, keeping muscles strong and toned, and producing more consistent energy. Exercise is so vital that elementary schools teach about exercise, and middle and high schools incorporate a required gym class into their curriculums in the hopes that young people will continue to take care of themselves by making exercise a part of their lives.
Exercise helps build muscle, reduces stress, increases endurance, and helps maintain a healthy weight, in addition to many other benefits. But how does sweating, running, lifting, walking, swimming—whatever it is you choose to do to get those muscles moving, and that heart working—help us? The answer starts in the tiniest building blocks of the human body: cells.
How Oxidative Stress Affects the Body
To understand the benefits of exercise at a cellular level, you must first understand how oxidative stress affects the body. Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals. When free radicals go unchecked, they cause a chemical reaction in the body called oxidative stress, and this is bad news for health. Oxidative stress wreaks havoc on the human body. It is one of the leading causes of disease. When the body accumulates a buildup of oxidative stress, it can lead to severe health problems such as:
- Heart disease
- Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- High blood pressure
- Inflammatory conditions
- Hardening of blood vessels
Oxidation and Aging
Oxidative stress is linked to aging and age-related diseases. Why? A number of age disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and type 2 diabetes, result from years of exposure to environmental hazards such as pollution, poor dietary habits, and cigarette smoke. All of these external sources can increase oxidative stress, making a highly oxidative environment in the body.
An abundance of oxidative stress over an extended period of time may damage or modify DNA structure, altering gene expression associated with the aging process. This means that when a cell relies on the genes to reproduce properly, the cells start making bad copies of themselves if the DNA has been modified by prolonged exposure to oxidative stress. They start creating new, mutated cells, and this results in age-related illnesses. But what does all of this have to do with exercise?
Redox and Exercise
Exercising does something pretty amazing in the body—something scientists weren’t able to study for a long time because this amazing thing is so microscopic that only recent technology has given them the tools to explore it. So here’s the big revelation: exercising produces reactive oxygen species. And that is a really big deal. But why?
Reactive oxygen species, also called redox signaling molecules, are the master regulators of antioxidant defenses. Antioxidants are the opposite of oxidative stress—they balance it out and keep it from getting out of control. That means the list of bad things you just read in the above section are countered by the redox molecules created in the muscles by exercising. And that’s not all they can do.
There is a surprising link between redox signaling and muscles. There is strong evidence that muscle contraction releases redox signaling molecules. These particular redox molecules, released via muscle tissue, are believed to control certain secretions that affect hormones and metabolism. So, in theory, these molecules may directly affect a person’s body fat percentage in a positive way.
Exercise generates synchronized and regular waves of redox signaling molecules, which create a pro-oxidative environment for cells. This is just one of the many benefits of redox signaling and exercise.
If that wasn’t enough good news, there’s more. The redox signaling molecules released during exercise, which help counter oxidative stress and regulate hormones, do more amazing things: they affect other parts of the body. Important parts. Really important parts. Other cellular tissues, including remote cellular tissues, are positively affected by exercise-created redox molecules. Some of these tissues include:
- Liver cells
- Endothelial cells (cells lining various organs such as blood vessels, heart, and lymphatic vessels)
- Heart cells
- Endocrine cells (the system that controls hormones)
- Adipose cells (fat cells)
- Brain cells
Over the last twenty years, scientists have been beginning to understand the critical link between exercise, redox signaling, intercellular communication, and cellular homeostasis. Their new research integrates redox signaling, exercise, and the widespread health benefits of incorporating an exercise routine into daily life.
A pro-oxidative environment may be the best thing a person can give their body for optimum health and well-being. The only thing you need to achieve this is time. Make time for yourself to start sweating. You are worth it, and your body will thank you. See why ASEA’s breakthrough technology is changing lives through redox signaling!