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A Little Exercise can Decrease Fatigue

Sedentary people who regularly complain of fatigue can increase their energy and decrease their fatigue engaging in regular, low intensity exercise, according to a new University of Georgia study published in the February issue of the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

Tim Puetz the lead author of the study said,

“We have shown that regular exercise can actually go a long way in increasing feelings of energy – particularly in sedentary individuals.”

Those studied had persistent fatigue that was not serious enough to be classified as a medical condition like chronic fatigue syndrome. This applies to about 25 percent of the general (US) population.

The volunteers were divided into three groups: The first engaged in 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks; the second engaged in low-intensity aerobic exercise for 20 minutes three times a week for six weeks; and the third group did not exercise. Surprisingly, the second group (the low-intensity group) had a greater reduction in fatigue levels (65 percent) than the moderate-intensity group (49 percent). Low intensity means walking at normal speed rather than briskly. (If you imagine a scale of 1 to 10 where zero is asleep and 10 is running flat out then low intensity is a 4 and moderate intensity is 7.)

This could mean that moderate-intensity exercise is too much for people who are already fatigued.

One result of the study, which I find very intriguing was that, the improvements in energy and fatigue were not related to increases in aerobic fitness. Puetz said the finding suggests that exercise acts directly on the central nervous system to increase energy and reduce fatigue.

Puetz concludes: “Exercise traditionally has been associated with physical health, but we are quickly learning that exercise has a more holistic effect on the human body and includes effects on psychological health. What this means is that in every workout a single step is not just a step closer to a healthier body, but also to a healthier mind.”

Stress and Cancer
A new study led by Prof. Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu, from Tel Aviv University’s Department of Psychology, published in the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity (2007) has shown that psychological and physiological stress prior to, during and after surgery has a biological impact that impairs immune system functioning. He was studying those operated on for cancer.

Prof. Ben-Eliyahu: “Ours is among the first studies to show that psychological fear may be no less important than real physiological tissue damage in suppressing immune competence. A weak immune system is one of the major factors that promotes cancer metastases after an operation, explains Prof. Ben-Eliyahu.

In a recent study (in progress), Prof. Ben-Eliyahu found that he could increase long-term post-operative survival rates from cancer in animal models, by as much as 200-300 percent.

Prof. Ben-Eliyahu concludes, “By boosting the immune system and blocking its suppression by psychological and physiological stress, starting a day or two before surgery, during surgery and after surgery, we may be able to provide an intervention program that can extend people’s lives and potentially increase their chances for long-term survival.”

If you feel fatigued it is worth trying out a little light exercise – not starting an aerobics routine but something like going for a walk for twenty minutes. And if you are undergoing surgery it is well worth finding ways to reduce fear as much as possible. Our “bodies” and “minds” interact in interesting ways.

P.S. I usually only link to sites that are of immediate, practical use for individuals. However, if you are someone, like me, who loves the big picture then it is worth checking out the Oxford Health Alliance. They take the big picture view of health: concentration on prevention, designing cities with places to play and that encourage walking around. They are also concerned witht the global imbalance in health between the rich and poor. They have a program at www.3four50.com which targets the three biggest risk factors (tobacco, poor diet and inactivity) of the four big chronic diseases (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, lung disease and cancer) which are now responsible for 50% of deaths. So if you love the big picture stuff this is a delightful site to check out.

If you enjoyed this article you may be interested in this post:

Four Simple, Little Things to do for Big Health Benefits

2 Comments to “Mind and Body in Fatigue and Cancer”

  1. very interesting findings!

    in the spring, i took a workshop that lasted for three days, about 13 hours a day. first i was afraid i was not going to make it. but they did something very interesting. every 10 minutes or so, we got up, clapped, shouted, or engaged in a “state change”. there was a mixture of loud, dance-y music and more relaxing music. all of this contributed to an atmosphere of steady energy.

  2. Evan says:

    Hi Isabella,

    Yes, I think they are extraordinary and hopeful findings.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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