If you’re looking to lower your risk of disease, exercise is some of the best medicine there is – not just for systemic health but oral, too. It reduces inflammation. It reduces chronic stress.
Do those, and you’re doing your body, brain, teeth, and gums a big old favor.
Some of the newest research in this area focuses on how exercise may lower your risk of tooth decay by reducing the presence of S. mutans in your mouth.
The small but compelling study, published last month in the Journal of Education and Health Science, built on earlier work by the same lead author, which looked at the saliva quality of elite marathon runners. In that case, the chronic exercise stress of overtraining was found to decrease the expression of antimicrobial peptides – particularly one called human beta-defensin-2, or HBD-2 for short.. (Antimicrobial peptides are short, positively charged amino acid chains that defend a body against pathogens – a/k/a “bad bugs.”) The result was a greater susceptibility to infection in the upper airway.
But that was with intense exercise. So for the current study, the research team focused on moderate exercise. Twenty-eight generally healthy females, average age 60, took part, with their exercise – an hour of moderate bicycling three times a week – supervised by a sports club instructor. Their progress was tracked for a year.
Their results were quite different from those of the elite athletes. Their HBD-2 levels went up, inhibiting the activity of S. mutans, one of the main pathogens involved in tooth decay. Thank you, moderate exercise.
But what does “moderate” mean here exactly? It’s exercise below the intensity where breathing is labored. It can include things like walking briskly, biking at 10 – 12 MPH, playing doubles tennis, or even pushing your lawnmower or washing windows.
Play a little music while you’re doing it, and you may get even more of a health boost overall, if results from another recent study hold up. This meta-analytic review, published last month in Psychological Bulletin, looked at 139 studies, classifying benefits into four categories: physiological, psychological, psychophysical, and performance. Its authors found positive effects across the board.
It is reasonable to conclude that music has the capacity to provide significant positive effects for exercisers and athletes, particularly in the areas of enhanced affective responses and improved physical performance, but also in terms of reduced perceived exertion and more efficient oxygen utilization.
James Maddux, a senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University – not part of the research team – elaborated on these conclusions in a blog post over at Psychology Today:
The authors offer some good ideas about this: that music can make exercise more enjoyable because it enhances our mood; that music can distract us from the unpleasant sensations of fatigue; that music—even when not exercising—can lead to increased blood flow, which can lead to an increase in the supply of oxygen, which can increase muscle endurance. [And] that running in time to music provides rhythm that can help regulate stride patterns and promote more fluid movement.
So what are you waiting for?