Just a thought but I was really active every day last week and by yesterday I felt that not only had I recovered but I’d now got so much more energy than I normally have at that time. I just kept wanting to go out and run for a couple of hours. Anything to be active. Even though I’d gone for a long walk in the morning.
This is another question I asked many years ago and several years on I am pretty convinced about the answer. Going over my old posts is just reinforcing this view because the evidence I have collected is really solid.
Moving regularly and challenging yourself mentally, physically and emotionally are crucial for a happy life, and may even give you a long one.
It’s one of those things that unfortunately we can’t measure outside of a laboratory but I remember feeling the same every time I’ve had a life with regular activity. Particularly one with regular intense activity like when I used to play tennis for 3 hours then 5 a side football for 2 hours on a saturday. Boy did that make me fit, but not just that, I feel I just plain recovered faster.
Training our ability to recover
It’s made me wonder whether our bodies ability to heal itself is something we can train in any way. Again this is probably a pipe dream and I’d expect limits but I just don’t know if this has been investigated in any specific way because exercise and it’s effect on the body is a very neglected area of research.
It certainly seems possible that regular exercise, particularly intense activity, will put a strain on energy systems and force them to find a way to provide energy and nutrients at rates faster than before just to sustain the high rates of activity. This can be seen in the improvements to the cardiovascular, nervous and other systems in the body that provide energy, nutrients and everything else.
In terms of rebuilding the body this would mean the rebuilding gets done faster and thus recovery occurs sooner. All you would need is sufficient rest.
So the benefits from exercise aren’t just about being able to do more, they’re about being able to recover faster from any challenge, in other words, regaining your balance or homeostatis (to be all biological about it). In other words exercise training pressures the body to develop its the ability to provide energy, nutrients and other items, faster and in higher quantities than before. Improvements in fitness are all related to some kind of improvement in efficiency or speed at which a nutrient is delivered.
Essentially it means that your body gets an upgrade but the upgrade doesn’t happen during the exercise it actually happens during recovery and this is the area we study much less even though it’s clear that it’s as, or more, important than the exercise that triggers it.
You see, exercise is simply a challenge to your body that asks the question whether it can deliver sugar, fat, water and other things to the areas of the body (and cells) that need it. It’s not just about getting stuff to the working cells it’s about getting stuff out of the cells that store things and getting everything from where it is to where it needs to be.
So exercise provides the stimulus but the recover process is where the real magic happens because the body doesn’t just restore everything back the way it was it prefers to plan ahead and make you that bit stronger. The benefit to you is visible as increased fitness because you can do that little bit more than before or the same things feel that bit easier. What the body is really interested in though is simply how long it takes to recover from the exercise challenge you keep putting it through.
The net result of all this is that the body can now deliver these things where they’re needed faster and the body has begun to learn how to be more efficient with what it has thus the same amount of raw material will go further.
Does this effect the whole body?
The question for me is whether this recovery process is true throughout the body. Maybe the improved nutrient transport systems, and better coordinated organs required to sustain intense activity now also help provide a better immune response and damage repair throughout the body. All because intense activity has an impact on the whole body.
Active and inactive organs chip in
For example inactive organs are required to resynthesise lactic acid to pyruvate or glycogen and return this to the working muscles. So even those inactive muscles still get a work out and receive pressure to improve because whole body workouts are a real team effort when it comes to your organs.
The nervous system also has to find ways to coordinate hundreds of individual movements whilst maintaining normal function at an enhanced rate plus coordinate extra functions such as intense sweating and heat regulation strategies.
At the same time water levels must be maintained. Since more water is required for sweating many parts of the body may have to learn how to function with less water than usual or other processes to minimise this impact on individual cells could be developed.
All this could simply be part of a standard plan written in our DNA developed over eons to handle the intense demands that vigorous activity provide.
System wide improvements
In essence I’m wondering whether the act of intense activity puts pressure on our body to do so much at once that it’s main adaptation is to get better, faster and stronger at everything it normally does.
What I’ve always noticed is that young people are generally very active and older people are much less so. The older people have more health problems than the younger and many appear to be releated to inactivity.
As younger people are becoming less active on a regular basis they also seem to be developing many illnesses that were exclusive to older people and this is becoming a trend.
These trends describe populations which means there is plenty of individual variation and that is what interests me. I see little correlation in those who are healthy and active in later life and their food and drink.
I’ve seen plenty who regularly drink to excess and eat all the ‘wrong’ things yet lived a long healthy life, because while working in a gym you see this, though I’ve seen very few that people that are inactive live longer and particularly prosper. It certainly seems that the older people get the more activity helps the human body keep itself maintained. My theory is that it’s the stimulus. vigorous exercise (I mean vigorous in relation to the individual) particularly, for the body to repair itself and maintain the ability to repair itself.
At the minutest level I expect that regular activity encourages your body to protect its DNA blueprint so it keeps a reliable record of how to fix itself.
This article was previously published as Does regular exercise improve the bodies ability to heal and restore?
- Humans Evolved to Exercise. Unlike our ape cousins, humans require high levels of physical activity to be healthy.
- Molecular mechanisms of exercise contributing to tissue regeneration from Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy volume 7, Article number: 383 (2022)
- Stand Up Straight, Your Neurons Are Watching
- Animal bodies bend and move when locomotion happens.
- Whole-body motion changes the movement of cerebrospinal fluid deep within the spinal cord and brain.
- Spinal cord sensory receptors detect fluid motion associated with body movement and tune motor circuits.
- Physical activity is a critical part of maintaining brain and body health.