Movement recipes: training as medicine

When you hit the road (or any other type of moderate exercise) your body releases an army of billions of immune cells, some of which are aptly referred to as natural killer cells. Within an hour, these cells filter out of the bloodstream and seep into the organs of your entire body. They find and destroy dangerous invaders (think viruses) and defective cells (think cancer).

Exercise can also help you avoid conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s, for which there are no effective medications to prevent, reverse, or cure them.

For Parkinson’s, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can improve the activity of brain cells and delay the worsening of the disease. HIIT alternates between short, intense workouts and less intense recovery phases. For example, you could sprint for a short time, then run, and then sprint again. HIIT is now attracting the attention of researchers to improve overall health, not just destroy fat and make you look ripped.

Here’s what’s going on inside when you’re active. After just 2 minutes, thousands of molecules begin to shift. Critical chemicals rise or fall within 10 minutes.

In one study, some of these changes lasted for minutes. Others stayed for at least an hour. This has been confirmed by a second study.

This affects genes, immune cells, inflammation, blood sugar, fat, metabolism, tissue healing, inflammation and more.

Scott Trappe, PhD, of Ball State University leads a team of scientists studying exactly how physical activity promotes health. It’s a deep dive into the biology of active and sedentary people, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

But you don’t have to be a scientist to understand the core concept. It’s the power to change your body – right down to your cells and molecules – just by moving. Trappe calls it “plasticity,” which means that your body isn’t always what it needs to be.

His advice: don’t just view exercise as a tool to burn calories. Make it a part of your life because the more we use our muscles, the more often we send these waves of molecular messengers through the bloodstream to refresh our entire system.

See the results you get after a workout and over time as you get into the habit.