by Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS
Belly up to the bar and let me pour you a wonder drink — a cocktail that guarantees to make you feel good, enhances self-esteem, helps prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and 12 kinds of cancer. It will improve your strength and balance; you will form new capillaries in your heart, in your skeletal muscles, and new healthy pathways in your brain; your attention span will increase, it induces calm, improves thinking (or decreases incidents of depression, ADHA, ADD, anxiety disorders, dementia); and if I haven’t got your attention yet … it improves your love life!
One part exercise — Whether you believe we are God-given or nature-given creatures, a fact that we can all agree on is that our ancestors moved. They either chased after a creature to eat for dinner or ran away from a creature so they would not be dinner.
Dr. Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, states, “We have labor-saving devices everywhere. You can get through the day expending virtually no energy, doing virtually no physical activity. Many people do choose that lifestyle.”
Many of us “know” we should exercise for overall well being, and I am not discounting good nutrition, sleep, or mindfulness as important mixers in the wonder cocktail, yet 75% of the U.S. population fails to meet the minimum recommendations for daily exercise. Adults aged 18 to 64 with no chronic conditions should get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity through 30 minutes of exercise five days per week, plus muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups performed on two or more days per week.
SMILE study — Studying the research on the protective benefits of exercising and learning that it can change virtually every tissue in the body metabolically, hormonally, neurologically, and mechanically led me to uncover the SMILE study. The SMILE study (Standard Medical Intervention and Long-Term Exercise) was conducted in 1999 at Duke University. Its findings were interesting because it involved exercising and an antidepressant drug that I note daily on my patients’ medical histories.
Limited bouts with anxiety and stress are part of life, and the stress response — from our sympathetic nervous system (ANS) — “fright, fight, or flight” is a protective function. For example, when we see an oncoming truck, our stress response, sympathetic nervous system (SNS) kicks in and takes over our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), and we quickly move out of its way. Together, the SNS and PNS manage homeostasis in the body. The reality is that many of us and our patients are not living in balance, but instead living 24/7 in a chronic SNS zone. Plus, consider that antidepressant medications begin a cascade of detrimental effects in the oral cavity. In my view, the more we learn and share about managing stress for ourselves, teams, and patients, the further we fill our roles as professionals.
Researchers gathered 156 patients with major depressive disorder and randomly assigned them to three groups (exercise, medicine, or a combination of both medicine and exercise) in a 16-week trial. The exercise parameters were 30 minutes for three times a week at 60% to 80% of targeted heart rate.
Results of the study showed that all three groups improved (>60%), with no significance difference between groups. This suggests that exercise is as effective as medicine. Another “awe” finding was uncovered from data at the 10-month follow-up: relapse medication: 38%; relapse medication and exercise: 31%; relapse exercise: 9%. This suggests that the exercise group was psychologically healthier after 10 months post-trial compared to the groups taking the antidepressant. With the rising cost of medications coupled with some of the negative effects in our mouths, the SMILE study is worth noting.
More benefits — The psychological (enhanced self-esteem, lower anxiety levels and stress, adjunctive treatment for clinical disorder, improved cognitive functioning) and physical (weight loss/control, reducing chronic diseases, stronger immune system, better sex) benefits of exercising are evidence-based. Clinically speaking, exercise is a key component in the cocktail for a healthy body, mind, and mouth. Cheers!
About the Author
Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS, is a practicing clinician, industry consultant, international speaker, and author. She is the director of the RDH eVillage, an online PennWell Corp. e-newsletter, and is involved in numerous professional organizations. She has authored the book, “Demystifying Smiles: Strategies for the Dental Team.”