The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Imagine if scientists came up with an inexpensive, easily administered way to decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and obesity by 25 to 35 percent. It would create a sensation and, if patented, would be worth billions. But there's already a free and simple way to achieve this: exercise.
The human body evolved over millions of years, long before cars, escalators, laptops and remote controls. It's built to expend effort. Gas-powered vehicles enabled us to move over long distances or get somewhere quickly, but they're bad medicine when they're used to go two or three blocks. Our lives are easier but not necessarily healthier. It's time we put more thought into keeping our bodies active and well, minimizing sickness.
Fitness increases your chances of staying well, but it's not a guarantee. We still have much to learn about the ways in which genetics and environmental conditions affect health. After the first human genome survey was completed in 2003, we thought DNA sequences would reveal the secrets of disease and speed development of treatments. But despite trillions of dollars spent on research, many cancers are still unsolved and we've learned that only a few diseases—such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington's chorea and sickle cell anemia—are the result of only one gene.
Most conditions result from the interplay of heredity and environment. And because many genes each add a small bit to defects like cancer, heart disease and dementia, magic bullet cures are elusive. Meanwhile, health care costs show little sign of stabilizing and increasing obesity and an aging population will drive them higher.
Health is about risk management. We can't choose our parents, so there's little we can do about the hereditary component of disease unless you subscribe to the promise of technological engineering like gene splicing and editing. But we can influence external factors, like diet, exercise, habits and environment.
Consider air, water and food.
We need air every minute of our lives to ignite the fuel in our body to give us energy. We suck two to three liters deep into the warm, moist recesses of our lungs. Our alveoli are smeared with surfactants that reduce surface tension and enable air to stick so oxygen and whatever else is in that breath can enter our bloodstream. Carbon dioxide leaves our body when we exhale. Lungs filter whatever's in the air. Deprived of air for three minutes, we die. Forced to live in polluted air, we sicken.
We are 60 to 70 percent water by weight. Every cell in our body is inflated by water. Water allows metabolic reactions to occur and enables molecules to move within and between cells and, when we drink it, we also take in whatever's in it, from molecules like DDT and PCBs to viruses, bacteria and parasites.
All the cells and structures of our body are molecules assembled from the debris of plants and animals we consume. If we spray or inject food plants and animals with toxic chemicals and then consume them, we incorporate those chemicals into our very being, sometimes passing them on to our offspring before they're even born.
We put effort and money into searching for disease causes. But screening toxic effects of thousands of new molecules every year is painstaking and expensive, so most are never tested. Often, mirroring genetic effects, different molecules, each harmless on its own, may collectively create a problem. Research is beginning to show that even diseases with genetic components, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, can be triggered by pesticide exposure. When we consider the vast array of chemicals spewed into air, water and soil, predicting those that may interact with each other and our genetic makeup to create health problems is difficult if not impossible.
Our health is tied to air, water and food from the soil. That means we should keep them clean and stop dumping toxic wastes into them. Our health is also improved by exercise, which should be part of the way we live. Outdoor exercise is especially good. As the David Suzuki Foundation's 30x30 May Nature Challenge demonstrates, connecting with nature is beneficial for physical and mental health. Caring for ourselves and the biosphere would pay many times over in improved health and happiness.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By George Citroner
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the World Health Organization currently recommend either 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (walking, gardening, doing household chores) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming) every week.
But there's little research looking at the benefits, if any, of exercising less than the 75 minute minimum.
It seems the reality of the climate crisis is too much for the Federal Reserve to ignore anymore.
For 21 years, Doug Distaso served his country in the United States Air Force.
He commanded joint aviation, maintenance, and support personnel globally and served as a primary legislative affairs lead for two U.S. Special Operations Command leaders.
But after an Air Force plane accident left him with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain, Distaso was placed on more than a dozen prescription medications by doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
By Bailey Hopp
If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.
The scourge of plastic waste that washes up on once-pristine beaches and finds its way into the middle of the ocean often starts on land, is dumped in rivers and canals, and gets carried out to sea. At the current rate, marine plastic is predicted to outweigh all the fish in the seas by 2050, according to Silicon Canals.
By Julia Conley
Joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Friday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders held the largest rally of any 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to date in Iowa, drawing more than 2,400 people to Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.