The Largest Study on Exercise Reveals Its Shocking Benefits for Your Health
In this blog, I want to share with you one of the largest studies ever on exercise and its impact on health and disease states. The researchers looked at cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality. “All-cause mortality” is the scientific term for all causes of death (from disease states mostly) versus dying in a car accident or suicide. These diseases are predominantly caused by lifestyle – poor diet and lack of exercise. But before we get into the study, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous, intense aerobic workouts per week, spread across three days and strength training exercises at least two days a week for all major muscle groups to improve health outcomes.
I will review several different studies, but the one I will discuss first just came out in February of 2023. The study is titled: “Non-occupational physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality outcomes: a dose–response meta-analysis of large prospective studies”(1). This study was a fairly large meta-analysis review of 196 articles and 94 cohort studies, which included over 30 million people. What they were looking at was – what happened to people’s health, when people exercised more and with greater intensity. Not only basic health, but they also look at - how exercise affected the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.
I realize this may sound like this study belongs in the “No Duh!” heap pile, because pretty much everybody knows that exercise improves health and therefore will probably decrease the risk of disease, that’s kind of a given. But stay with me, because their conclusions may surprise you and you will see why this study is so important.
When researchers do a smaller study with say, 20-50 people, sometimes the impact is statistically significant. But when you do increase the number of people in the study to thousands, sometimes the results can dwindle or even disappear. The larger the number of people that you look at, the higher the degree of confidence and certainty there is that the results are accurate. This review includes 30 million people!
So what did they find?
Well, they found that the risk for all causes of death went down 31%! They also found that the more you exercise, the better the results. They found that going from zero exercise to about 2 ½ hours per week had the best results. This showed that inactive people can reduce their risk for diseases by a third just by adding only about 21 minutes a day - that's all!
I hear people say I hear people say all the time, “I don't have time to exercise”. You don't have 20 minutes in a day to reduce your risk of early death by 30%? I mean, that's just crazy what people are saying that they don't want to replace 20 minutes tv time with exercise to reduce your chances of suffering through a disease state. Make the time.
The total results from the study that “cardiovascular disease risk was reduced by 29%, all-cause mortality by 31% and cancer risk by 15%”, for just 21 minutes a day. The researchers further estimated “15.7% of all premature deaths would have been averted” if people simply exercised roughly 20 minutes a day. Wow. That is 55 million Americans that would not die prematurely by simply exercising 21 minutes a day. That's why exercise is so important. Make it important for you and your loved ones.
What about Exercise, Prostate Cancer and Myokines?
Next, let’s look at the results from a study that shows an even more pronounced effect when you combine exercise with a healthy diet titled “Myokine Expression and Tumor-suppressive Effect of Serum following 12 Weeks of Exercise in Prostate Cancer Patients on ADT” (2). This study focused on Prostate Cancer, but it applied to other Cancers. Myokines are one of our immune responses to help killing and destroying and even preventing cancer rates. They looked at the blood of people after intense exercise, like training with weights. Not just casual exercise, like walking or playing with a dog but intense exercise where you're putting a lot of effort into it.
This is what they found. When they drew blood samples from the patients, they found that the level of anti-cancer Myokines increased significantly after three months of exercise. But what’s even more shocking is that a single bout of exercise significantly increased Myokines! Quote from the study: “when we took their pre-exercise blood and their post exercise, and placed it over living prostate cancer cells, we saw significant suppression of growth from those cells, only from the post training blood.” This is how exercise can help.
Some of you may be saying “but I'm a female, I don't have a prostate”. Because of this statement from the researchers, “Myokines in and of themselves don't signal the cells to die, but they do signal our immune cells, T cells to attack and kill the cancer cells. We believe this mechanism applies to all cancers, breast cancer, uterine cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, all skin cancers.” That's why this study is so important. So you've got a 31% reduction of all cause mortality 29% reduction in and cardiovascular disease and a significant reduction in cancer cells just by exercising according to the research.
What about Type 2 Diabetes and Exercise?
The next study shows different effects of lifestyle intervention in high and low risk prediabetes. It is what they call an intervention study, which takes people with T2 diabetes (or prediabetes, and in this study, changed their diet and exercise. Here are the quotes from the study:
- “Lifestyle intervention (LI) can prevent type 2 diabetes…
- Several prospective randomized studies have demonstrated that diabetes risk can be reduced by modifying diet and physical exercise. Such approaches yield relative diabetes risk reductions between 15% and 70% within 1–6 years of follow-up.
- (In one study) only ∼40% of participants accomplished regression to normal glucose regulation, i.e., 60% were LI non-responders.
- “During a follow-up of 3 years, intensified compared with conventional LI had a higher probability of normalizing glucose tolerance.”
Up to 70% Diabetes risk reduction with a strenuous physical exercise and diet! And the more intense exercise gave the best results, even for some who were not improving with moderate exercise and diet alone. Basically, the more intense the exercise, the greater the decrease in risk of T2 diabetes. They found that by modifying the amount of exercise and the intensity of the exercise, it increased the glucose normalization by up to 60%! The diabetics in the study were all on that American Diabetes Association diet with moderate exercise and that still did not get many of the subjects to normal glucose blood levels. So they increased only the exercise (without changing the diet at all), increasing the intensity and duration of the exercises. And that significantly improved most of the rest of people who were not responding to moderate amounts of exercise. So the intensity and the duration and the consistency does matter. Be sure to practice “safe sets” though and increase the intensity slowly over time to avoid injury.
What about the effects of exercise on brain health?
This next study looked at the combined effect of physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake on decreasing cognitive decline. Mental brain health, right? Here’s the results:
“Moreover, a high F&V intake was associated with a decrease in cognitive decline by 40%.The risk of cognitive decline decreased by 63% when high physical activity and high fruit and vegetable intake were combined.”
So you had a 40% better outcome for your brain health just by consuming high amounts of fruits and vegetables, but when you combined exercise with the fruit, high fruit and vegetable intake the risk of cognitive decline decreased a whopping 63%! That's two thirds less risk of cognitive decline. Just by combining a high physical activity and high fruit and vegetable diet. Well, that gives me a lot of hope. I'm 60 years old, my brain is working just fine, and I want to keep it that way unto my 100’s. I want the same for you, which is why I am so passionate about sharing this information. Please share so others can benefit from this empowering research about the extraordinary benefits of exercise and a healthy plant-based diet.
Diet and Exercise – Fat Loss
Study: Effect of Exercise Type during Intentional Weight Loss on Body Composition in Older Adults with Obesity, 2017 (249 participants in an 18-month study)
“WL (diet) + RT (resistance training) results in less lean mass lost than WL (diet) +AT (aerobic training); WL (diet) plus exercise yields greater fat mass loss than WL (diet) alone.”
Fat Loss −4.8kg, −10.9%
Muscle Loss −1.0kg, −2.0%
Diet + Aerobic Training
Fat Loss −6.8kg, −16.4%
Muscle Loss −1.6kg, −3.1%
Diet + Resistance Training
Fat Loss −7.8kg, −19.0% (6.6lbs more fat lost than diet alone)
Muscle Loss −0.8kg, −1.5% (2x more muscle retained than AT)
“We discuss the health benefits of engaging in RT, including healthy aging, improved mobility, cognitive function, cancer survivorship, and metabolic health in persons with obesity and type 2 diabetes—all of which can influence morbidity and mortality. Many of the health benefits of RT can be achieved by lifting lighter loads to volitional failure, highlighting that the benefits of RT do not necessarily require lifting heavier weights.”