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Exercise Advice

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Question: I know that exercise is good for you, which is why I try to be as active as possible, but is it true that too much exercise can actually do you more harm than good?

16 September, 2008 – 17:11

Answer: You are absolutely right, regular exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle.

Scientific research shows that exercise can help us to lose weight, gain lean muscle, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardio-vascular complaints. Mentally it can help to relieve stress and make us feel good about ourselves.

So if you don’t do so already, try to do some form of exercise that speeds up your heartbeat for at least 20 minutes a day, four times a week. This could include jogging, skipping or dancing, but even regular walking will make a real difference.

Unfortunately, however, it’s not all good news. Scientists have also found that exercise, despite its many benefits, can increase the formation of dangerous free radicals or oxidants.

Oxidants are unstable oxygen molecules, known to cause microscopic damage to cell membranes, proteins and DNA. This damage, which is called oxidisation, can lead to a number of health problems and is one of the reasons for an increased incidence of heart disease amongst marathon runners.

Under normal conditions the body has an efficient system to keep these oxidants in check. Anti-oxidants bind with free radicals in the body and neutralise them, but these are consumed faster when we exercise and need to be replaced.

Fortunately, anti-oxidants are easily obtained. Fruit and vegetables have a naturally high content, especially berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries), red grapes, plums, kale, spinach, sprouts and broccoli.

Alternatively, you may wish to try an anti-oxidant supplement. Vitamins A, C and E all contain anti-oxidant properties, but research has discovered a super anti-oxidant called Pycnogenol. Made from the bark of a French pine tree, Pycnogenol has been shown to increase the recovery time from exercise by over 21%.

So, as long as you balance your body’s production of oxidants with an adequate supply of protective anti-oxidants, exercise can be as safe as you make it.

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