Is Exercise Causing Damage to Your Body?

Exercise creates free radicals which cause cell damaging, oxidative stress. Taking supplement with antioxidants will prevent cellular damage while strengthening your body's defenses.

 By Mark Glazier - President,, Inc.

The benefits of exercise are widely known and understood, but unfortunately, the potential negative affects have only recently been addressed in the athletic community. Could exercise actually be causing damage to your body? Itís ironic, but itís true. Exercise causes elevated aerobic metabolism, which in turn increases the production of killer molecules known as free radicals.

A free radical is a molecule thatís missing at least one electron in its outermost orbit, which causes it to be negatively charged. Like most things in nature, free radicals seek to remain neutral, and in an effort to achieve this balance they bump up against healthy cells in your body and steal electrons from them. This process is similar to an electric shock that leaves the once healthy cell, damaged and mutated.

Unfortunately the process doesnít stop after damaging the first cell. This newly damaged molecule is now missing an electron and becomes a free radical. Each free radical that is created zaps electrons from healthy molecules to form new free radicals, thus creating a chain reaction that damages thousands of cells along its path.

Scared? I hope so, because scientists now believe that free radical damage increases cellular deterioration, which is associated with accelerated aging, cancer, diabetes and coronary artery disease. This is ironic because the human body is designed to regenerate most of its cells. Our bones, skin and blood cells all regenerate over time to slow the aging process. Free radicals, however, replace cellular regeneration with cellular degeneration, which ultimately accelerates the aging process.

Free radical damage has become more prevalent in our society as witnessed by the increase in cancer victims in recent years. Environmental pollutants like smog, cigarette smoke and car exhaust all contain free radical molecules, and as our exposure to these increase, so does our chances of degenerative diseases. Worse yet, research shows that mental stress is one of the highest causes of free radicals. 

The good news is that under normal conditions your body has the inherent ability to defend against free radicals by producing three substances; glutathione, catalase and superoxide dismutase. These substances are known as antioxidants, which work as free radical scavengers, seeking out free radicals and donating the electrons needed to neutralize them, thereby quenching their need to search out and destroy healthy cells. 

The problem occurs when free radical production exceeds the bodyís ability to produce antioxidants. This can happen during intense exercise when athletes can use from 10 to 20 times the amount of oxygen then that of a sedentary person. During exercise, the conversion of fat and sugar into energy occurs through a process known as oxidation. During this process, most of the oxygen combines with hydrogen to produce water. However, about 5% of the oxygen forms free radicals.

Imagine that, every time you breath, free radicals are formed. This process of oxidation is similar to what you see when metal rusts or an apple slice turns brown from exposure to air. Once again, your body can defend against normal levels of free radicals, but if you exercise intensely, live in a polluted area, or have a stressful life, as most of you and your students do, then supplementing your diet with antioxidants may be of great value.

A well balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is important and will help, but alone itís just not enough. Factory processing, additives and pesticides all work to destroy antioxidants within our foods and nutrient depleted soils no longer provide us with the nutrient rich foods that our grandparents enjoyed. 

The following list of antioxidants play an important role in free radical protection, especially for the active athlete: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, selenium, coenzyme Q10 and glutathione.

Eating a well balanced diet and a taking strong Multi-Vitamin/Mineral/Antioxidant Supplement each day should be considered for adequate antioxidant protection and to promote optimum performance and long-term health. Thereís a saying, ďTake care of your body for the first 50 years of your life, and it will take care of you for next 50.Ē  Antioxidant protection and good diet is a great way to start.


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