A very important study on exercise was conducted that has implications for us all. The study was called the Dallas Bed Rest and Training Study. Researchers recruited 6 college students to literally spend their summer in bed. (D.K. McGuire et al., “A Thirty Year Follow-Up of the Dallas Bed Rest and Training Study”, Circulation 104 (2001): 1350-57.
After just 3 weeks in bed, the subjects experienced a deterioration in cardiovascular fitness that was equivalent to 20 years of aging. Thirty years later, 5 of the 6 subjects were retested. Only 2 had continued to exercise with any regularity and all had gained weight and body fat. Even so, the declines from 30 years of actually aging were less than those they had suffered during the original 3 weeks of bed rest. Immediately after being tested, the 5 men were put on an aerobic exercise program, which included regular walking, jogging, and cycling. In just 6 months, the declines they had suffered over the previous 30 years were completely reversed. Aerobic exercise is obviously very important.
Aerobic exercise has been shown to help with: muscle tone, stroke patients, memory, rheumatoid arthritis, it will inhibit gray matter loss in the brain, can help with panic disorders, stress chemical changes, muscle function, muscle disease, brain function, it decreases pain/changes pain perception, improves sleep, improves quality of life, helps HIV patients, increases cardiopulmonary fitness, improves pain with osteoarthritis, aids the immune system, decreases chronic inflammation, helps migraines, helps heart disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, is just as good as anti-depressants, decreases low back pain, helps fibromyalgia, increases brain size, helps with pregnancy issues, helps diabetic/insulin problems, decreases nerve sensitivity, helps brain injured patients, cystic fibrosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, helps oxygenate the brain, and improves mood!
It doesn’t take something dramatic. Walking can accomplish some of these improvements. But specificity is important. Studies have shown that exercising at a specific time, on a specific day, at a specific location will increase compliance by quite a bit. Schedule into your day what is most important instead of trying to fit it in. Aerobic exercise/walking should be scheduled in.