If wheat and grain elimination, along with the other Wheat Belly strategies such as iodine supplementation, vitamin D restoration, and cultivation of bowel flora, are so incredibly powerful for restoring health, is there any additional benefit to be gained through exercise? Yes, there is—but let’s be clear on why so that you don’t become frustrated or overdo a good thing.
Let’s be absolutely clear on one issue: Exercise is not generally an effective means of losing weight. Yes, you can lose weight initially when going from a sedentary couch potato to regular vigorous physical activity, but the effects are transient and usually do not persist long-term. The body accommodates to higher levels of physical activity quickly. This is why people who habitually engage in exercise and physical activity stop losing weight despite high levels of effort. This is why all those people sweating on treadmills and elliptical machines at the gym are still overweight even after months and months of regular exercise. This is why professional athletes who train many hours per day are increasingly overweight. The impact of diet is far greater than exercise for weight management.
What are the benefits of exercise over and above the basic components of the Wheat Belly lifestyle?
- Reduction of insulin resistance—This reduces potential for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.
- Muscle growth, improved coordination, and balance—This becomes more and more important as we age to counteract the 35% or so muscle mass we lose with aging. Throw in strength training or other muscle-building activity and, even better, combine it with the Lactobacillus reuteri yogurt that restores youthful muscle via oxytocin, and you have a very powerful way to rebuild/maintain youthful muscle.
- Bone density—Exercise that either builds strength/muscle and/or stresses the axial spine (spinal column, pelvis) helps maintain bone density. Something as simple as jumping in place for a minute can measurably increase bone density.
- Increased hippocampal volume–This is the effect that maintains cognitive health and reduces potential for Alzheimer’s dementia
- Reduction in stress, anxiety, and improved mood–Even people with conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder can experience benefit.
- Improved pain management—Although there may need to be special accommodation for, say, knee or hip pain, such as using non-weight bearing leg extensions and curls. This includes better management of various forms of headaches including migraine.
- Improved heart rate variability (HRV)—This powerful measure of the balance between the sympathetic “fight or flight” and parasympathetic relaxation response is now easily measurable with the many biometric devices now available, such as the Whoop, Oura ring, and Apple Watch. Exercise improves this measure, both aerobic and strength training (though higher repetitions with lower resistance work better for this effect).
I believe that the most important component of exercise, however, is enjoyment, i.e., choose activities that you truly like doing. Isn’t it better to jump out of bed and say, “It’s Tuesday, the day I have my samba dance class!” rather than resigning yourself to, say, the drudgery of walking on a treadmill if it’s something you do not enjoy. It could be dancing, yoga, raking leaves, shoveling snow, chopping wood, walking with friends, biking through a park, jumping rope or jumping on a trampoline—do it because you enjoy it, not because you have to. It requires at least 30 minutes several times per week to obtain benefits. (You can abbreviate the time commitment by incorporating high-intensity interval training, HIIT, also called “Tabatas,” i.e., incorporating brief intense bursts of high-effort activity alternating with more extended periods of moderate activity.) It does not require extreme effort to obtain benefits—you do not have to run marathons and triathlons. (In fact, it is becoming clearer and clearer such extreme efforts have some real adverse health consequences including increased potential for atrial fibrillation, accelerated wear and tear on joints, and occasional cardiomyopathies, i.e., diseases of heart muscle.)