Vigor Improvement Practices—Exercise

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Vigor Improvement Practices—Exercise
Participating in moderate exercise on a regular basis can reduce body fat, build muscle and bone, improve mental and emotional function, stimulate the immune response, and reduce appetite. Being physically active can also offset some of the destructive effects of chronic stress and help restore biochemical balance—which leads to more vigor. No drug can do all that!

In terms of improving your general sense of well-being, exercise generates the production of dopamine and serotonin, both of which are “feel-good” anti-anxiety and anti-depression chemicals that are produced in the brain and are responsible for the well-known “runner’s high” that can help control the stress response.

Here are a few research findings that attest to the astounding benefits of exercise:

* Duke University researchers have reported that exercise (thirty minutes per day, three to four days a week, for four months) is more effective than prescription antidepressants in relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression.

* Several studies at the University of Colorado have shown how exercise can reduce many of the detrimental effects of chronic stress. The Colorado researchers also reported that extremes of exercise, such as regimens undertaken by overtrained endurance athletes, can reverse these health benefits by upsetting biochemical balance. Going to extremes with an exercise regimen caused an increase in cortisol and also suppressed testosterone in male and female athletes, biochemical effects that can quickly lead to increased body fat, interference with mental and emotional function, suppressed immune function, and a higher risk of injury.

* Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have noted that regular exercise can help patients with Cushing’s syndrome—a condition caused by extreme disruptions in biochemical balance—to prevent much of the tissue destruction normally seen during the course of the disease.

* In Arizona, stress researchers reported that being more physically fit had a protective effect against feelings of stress and age-related disruptions in biochemical balance. The research findings demonstrated that less physically fit women had significantly greater problems with biochemical balance in response to stressful events compared to physically fit women.

One of the most important factors when it comes to exercise is your purpose for doing it: The “reason” you should be physically active has less to do with directly burning calories and losing weight (although those may be nice side benefits) and more to do with the fact that exercise can act as a “hedge” against the tendency for stress, sleep deprivation, aging, and poor diet to upset the body’s biochemical balance.

Many people tend to overestimate the rate at which exercise can burn calories. They fail to realize that you would have to run a half mile to burn off every Oreo you eat and almost 90 minutes to burn off the calories in a Big Mac! So although it is true that exercise does burn calories, its primary value as part of your strategy for improving vigor lies in its profound effects on restoring biochemical balance by modulating levels of cortisol, testosterone, growth hormone, serotonin, and other biochemical compounds in the Four Pillars of Health.

You might be wondering whether a “best” type of exercise will improve biochemical balance. In reality, the best form of exercise is anything—as long as you do it! You simply need to get out there and move your body for at least three to six hours each week (thirty to sixty minutes per day, six days a week). But to give you some guidance on this issue, this chapter offers suggestions for “Interval Training” and “FlexSkills.” I encourage you to follow through on these Vigor Improvement Practices (VIPs).

I know that many people claim they are “too busy” to exercise. In fact, being “too busy” is the most common excuse for not exercising. If you buy into that excuse, you need to accept the fact that your biochemical balance will never reach optimal levels and your vigor will suffer—simple as that.

So I invite you to take a minute to think about all the things on which you regularly spend thirty to sixty minutes each day—television, newspapers, Internet, etc.—and then ask yourself if investing that same amount of time in your health and in how you feel is worthwhile. If you commit to an exercise program, I promise that your investment will produce great rewards.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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