You know the scene from every horror movie ever made: a young man and woman are alone in the woods…cue the ominous music…now a wide shot of something watching them…she is staring into his eyes and he’s thinking…you know what he’s thinking…they notice a rustle in the trees… it’s only a cute rabbit…whew!...so where were we?...then the monster strikes…
They had no chance of surviving and we knew it from the start. Maybe they deserved it. I mean, who wanders alone into the woods in a horror movie? Everyone knows how that ends.
Let’s see if you know how this story ends: you are busy with career, kids and life. You stay up late, you get up early and every day is a race. You try to eat well and exercise as much as you can, but your son has soccer practice, your daughter goes to gymnastics twice a week and you do the work of three people at the office, so mealtime is take out most days while exercise happens mostly in January. Busy days build months and months disappear into years until, when you least suspect it, your belly jumps out of your shirt and you scream, “I’m Fat!!!!!!!”
Really, this is the best-case scenario. A not-so-healthy diet, sporadic exercise and too little sleep is the perfect formula for adding fat and multiplying scary risks to your health. Diabetes, heart disease and increased stress on your joints are the three most obvious threats and now excess fat is being linked to certain cancers and cognitive decline. Moreover, as you age you tend to lose the “good” subcutaneous fat, which lies under your skin making your skin look full, protecting against injury and helping to fight infection. It also appears sub-q fat produces an important hormone called adiponectin, which helps control metabolism and protect against certain cancers.
The gradual loss of subcutaneous fat leads to the predominance of visceral fat. This belly fat infiltrates your vital organs and wreaks havoc on your body by producing an array of proteins called cytokines, which cause chronic inflammation (a key mechanism in heart disease) and increase your risk for cancer. Of course, your chances for high blood pressure and diabetes also go up as visceral fat accelerates the aging process.
Aaaaaahhhhhh! How can this monster be stopped? The answer is keep moving.
If you are an inactive person, even a thin one, fat invades your muscles and gets between individual fibers like a marbled T-bone steak. Worse, lipid (fat) droplets infiltrate individual muscle cells contributing to insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. More fat also means less muscle and fewer mitochondria. Mitochondria are the power plants (read: calorie burners) of the cells and are plentiful in muscle tissue. They are almost nonexistent in fat.
Yet, while not burning many calories, the extra pounds of fat around your midsection is fighting to stay alive. One of its weapons is a hormone called leptin. Produced by fat tissue, leptin’s job is to trigger an increase in metabolism and tell the brain, “stop eating,” but obese people can become insensitive to leptin. This means the fatter you are the more you want to eat and the more you want to eat the fatter you become.
The only way out of this vicious cycle is to keep moving.
When you move on a regular basis - which means consistent bouts of exercise - you change your body chemistry in ways researchers are only beginning to understand. Muscle, just like fat, is an endocrine organ and produces chemical secretions which communicate with the rest of the body. These muscular secretions are called myokines and counteract the inflammatory effect of the cytokines, which are produced by visceral fat. To date, dozens of myokines have been identified and linked to muscular growth and healing, immune system support, stronger bones and a healthier brain.