You're Genetically Programmed to Exercise

Dear Member,

You are genetically programmed to exercise. I’ve known this for decades, but never was it so clear to me as when I saw the native Ashaninka in Peru. In case you haven’t read my last few letters, I trekked through the jungles and met with these people in their remote lands near the Amazon.

The Ashaninka are the oldest native people in Peru. They’ve been there for thousands of years. But today, their traditional homeland is gone. As a result, they no longer hunt or fish. All the vigorous exercise they used to get is a thing of the past. And they’ve paid the price.

All that inactivity has led to the same chronic diseases that threaten us here in the US – diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, even cancer. Of course, they’re eating Americanized food, which only makes it worse. But their lack of exercise and physical activity contributes to disease more directly than you may realize.

Take osteoporosis, for example. Many people think that this condition – which causes your bones to become weak and brittle – is something that happens naturally, as you age. Not true. If you don’t work your muscle, it leads to a loss of muscle mass. And that loss of muscle causes your bones to weaken. You see, muscles become smaller and weaker when no demand is placed on them. And if that muscle force doesn’t challenge your bones, they become thinner, lighter and more fragile.

It may sound like a strange notion to us today, but physical activity is a genetic requirement for health and survival. Back in the days of our ancient ancestors, those who had weak muscles and a poor cardiovascular system didn’t live very long. More often than not, they became the lunch or dinner of a stronger predator.

But in reality, ancient man engaged in physical activity from the earliest age possible. Their lives depended on being able to walk, run, lift, chop, carry, fight and climb. Today, that physical activity has bottomed out. Most of us work in offices where the heaviest thing we have to lift is our morning cup of coffee. And barely 10 percent of us get any regular exercise. 

Dr. Frank Booth of the University of Missouri said it best: “Human cells are maladapted to an inactive lifestyle.” Today, his message hits close to home. Modern Americans are 75 percent less active than our grandparents and great-grandparents that lived just a hundred years ago.

And that has lead to an alarming increase in the rate of chronic disease and infirmity. Twenty-five percent of people over 65 cannot bathe, dress or even feed themselves. For those over 85, that number is above 50 percent.

In ancient times, a lack of muscle and exercise meant you had a good chance of being eaten by something much bigger than you. I’m sure that’s a gruesome way to go, but is dying of cancer any better? The thing to remember here is death by disease is preventable.

When the heart and lungs are conditioned by vigorous activity, they develop a reserve capacity you can call upon in times of stress or infection. You’ve heard me talk about reserve capacity often. And for good reason… You’ll never die of heart attack because your heart simply gets tired and stops. Heart attacks are fatal when you lack reserve energy during times of stress and trauma.

Your lungs are the same. If you have reserve space, you can easily fight off infection and pneumonia. In fact, your lung capacity is so important; it’s actually the number one indicator of longevity. The smaller your lungs, the greater your chances of dying – of all causes!

And have you ever stopped to consider that your heart is actually a muscle? We’ve seen how a lack of activity causes your muscles to shrink. Well, your heart will shrink too if you don’t challenge it.

What’s more, the muscles of your arms and legs act as a pump to bring blood back to the lungs for a fresh shot of oxygen. Sluggish blood return leads to varicose veins, hemorrhoids, even blood clots. But all of this can be avoided by giving your muscles a challenge and keeping them trim.

And it doesn’t have to take a long time either. An effective routine that builds reserve capacity in both your heart and lungs can be accomplished in as little as 12 to 15 minutes. All the details are in The Doctor’s Heart Cure.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD