You may also ask: Doesn’t my antioxidant system continue to get rid of the ONOOs even when I’m being a couch potato? The answer is yes, but not enough. Exercise upregulates the body’s antioxidant defense system. Regular exercise protects the DNA and increases levels of a detoxifying enzyme which is believed to lower the occurrence of cancer. Regular exercise is needed to train your antioxidant defenses to beef up, to keep working at a level that sweeps up more of the bad oxidants trying to tear down your body at the cellular level even when you are at rest.
Why is a whole body exercise regime like Yoga Tune Up® better than non-whole body exercise like jogging and weight lifting? Because the benefits of upregulating the antioxidant defense system appear to be localized to the areas in which the muscles are actually working – i.e., contracting and stretching, contracting and stretching. (You need to have the stretch in order to get the muscles to the optimum length for optimal contraction and antioxidant production.) If most of the muscle work is being done by your hip flexors during a 5K run, how do your shoulders, arms, hamstrings and neck get more anti-oxidants? If these other areas of your body don’t also get some love, they may age a lot faster than your thighs.
In fact, if you are someone who spends most of your exercise hours running, biking or weight training, start returning the muscles in your legs to their optimal length with yummy Leg Stretch #3 (included below and on the 10 Minute Quick Fix for the Lower Back).
What if I just exercise once a month, but for 3 hours at something really hard like dragging a 2-ton rock across a field? ONOO! When rats and humans who are normally sedentary engage in acute bouts of exercise, their bodies’ levels of bad oxidants shoot up way beyond their antioxidant systems’ abilities to protect – because their bodies haven’t had the chance to upregulate their antioxidant systems with regular exercise. The body adapts over time, not overnight. Also, this gets worse with age. Left on its own, without regular exercise, the body increases it production of and accumulates oxidants. In addition, oxidative damage to DNA generally increases with age. Regular exercise triggers mechanisms in the body which allow it to repair its own DNA and expunge damaged proteins which could alter DNA.
In the words of Ji, Radak and Goto:
“. . . when RONS production far exceeds the ability of the cell to adapt through hormesis, crisis could occur leading to apoptosis or even cell death.”
“Death may be considered a final failure of the organism to maintain oxidant-antioxidant homeostasis throughout the life span.”
“Exercise can cause wide-spread changes from organelle to the entire body . . . . Thus, we propose that exercise has a hormetic effect wherein chronic lowdose exposure can result in increased tolerance to a higher level of stress, no matter the stress is physical, mental, pathological, or environmental.”
“Hormesis and Exercise: How the Cell Copes with Oxidative Stress,” American Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology 3(1): 41-55, 2008.