Physical Activity

BreakThrough! Mental and Metabolic Health Physical Activity

Regular exercise is a proven prevention and treatment strategy for individuals with pre-diabetes and T2 diabetes [44, 46]. A consistent regimen of resistance training (RT) and endurance training (ET) promotes health benefits through increases in muscle mass that positively impact insulin responsiveness and glucose control [47]. Exercise recommendations ideally combine RT and ET training with to achieve gains in muscle mass as well as reducing circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines to achieve metabolic health [47].

 A summary of research articles studying physical activity and eating behavior also suggests there’s a common neurocognitive link found in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) [46]. Exercise improves blood flow to the brain by increasing BDNF protein activity, feeding the growth of new blood cells and brain cells [46]. If motivation and activity increase in one area; there may be a positive “spillover” effect [48]. We may experience increased motivation in other areas related to our well-being [48]. Exercise motivation and self-regulation are both positively associated with eating regulation [48]. This is because exercise increases mood-boosting brain chemicals, such as serotonin, and endorphins. These up-regulating boosts ease pain and increase pleasure while lowering stress-induced cortisol levels [46, 47, 48].

Numerous studies report that physical activity (such as walking) has a positive and significant health outcome with respect to premature death from metabolic health disorders, and some cancers [49]. Exercise also increases our breathing rate, improving both heart and lung function. This is important because roughly 80% of unwanted body fat is released from the body through our lungs [50]. Losing weight requires unlocking the carbon stored in fat cells, thus reinforcing that often heard refrain of “eat less, move more.” [50].

Replacing just one hour of rest (sedentary time) with exercise raises the metabolic rate to seven times that of resting removing additional carbon from the body, raising the total released by about 20% [51].

Physical activity also increases levels of adenosine; a type of neurotransmitter that’s involved in energy metabolism and expenditure [48]. Levels of adenosine fluctuate, but generally distress, anxiety and trauma depletes adenosine, whereas cognitive and physical activity result in higher amounts of adenosine by bedtime. This is important because adenosine helps us fall asleep more readily and also have restorative phases of deep sleep [51]

Exercise (150 min / week) is associated with lower rates of depression, anxiety, memory loss, and may slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease [49]. Physical activity is one of the behavioral pillars of integrated lifestyle medicine for recovery from mental and metabolic health disorders. If you’re looking for motivation, exercise keeps us looking and feeling younger! We might think we can just eat right and avoid exercise, but it just doesn’t work for long-term health and weight management. Similar to planning what we’re going to eat each week, we can also plan for exercise or activities.

Important considerations in planning are realistic scheduling, engaging in recommended physical activities that we enjoy, and having alternatives if the weather, or gym hours are inconvenient. Other small habits we can incorporate to increase our metabolism include parking further away from work or store entrances, taking the stairs,  standing more when we don’t need to be sitting, and even performing household chores like laundry, vacuuming, or mowing more frequently [98]. Sometimes it’s as simple as this mantra:


I may not want to, but …I”M GOING TO!

Recognition: Identify activities that you enjoy.


Resistance: How can you schedule these activities into a daily and weekly regimen?


Resistance: Visualize and describe some benefits of exercise for yourself.


Resilience: Are there people (or pets) who’d be great support in getting started?


Resilience: Where can you actively migrate later today? Everyday?


Recovery: (visualization) I enjoy the feeling sand satisfaction that I get from physical movement. What “bucket list” activities or challenges can I try now?


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