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EVENTS event preview Creating change A


s the demands of ageing and obese populations put pressure on healthcare systems throughout the


developed world, the move towards a preventative healthcare model – and the role the fitness industry can play in making this a reality – is an increasingly hot topic. In light of this, Dr Mario Alonso Puig’s choice of title for his general session at the IHRSA European Congress (18–21 October) in Barcelona, Spain, is particularly timely: ‘Exercise is Medicine: Unleashing Our Potential and Creating Change’.


maximising our potential A renowned specialist in general surgery and gastroenterology, native Spaniard Alonso is a fellow of Harvard University Medical School as well as a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As a neuroscientist, Alonso became


interested in how the way we think affects our mental and physical health, and he started giving lectures and seminars to companies on this topic. So what does exercise have to do with ‘unleashing our inner potential and creating change’? First, says Alonso, it’s essential to understand the relationship between our minds and our brains. “Our mind is the software that programmes our brain, but sometimes that software is dysfunctional,” he explains. “As a result, we don’t


maximise our brain’s true potential. What makes a problem insurmountable is not the problem itself but our way of thinking about it. This is no “beautiful


message,” he says. “There’s


Mario Alonso Puig: A fellow of Harvard


Medical S chool october 2010 © cybertrek 2010


EUROPE EUROPE


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This year’s IHRSA European Congress features top speakers from both within and outside the global fitness industry. Representing the medical community, surgeon and educator Mario Alonso Puig gives us a glimpse into his general session on the impact of exercise on our health. Rhianon Howells reports


Exercise reduces anxiety, by releasing oxytocin, endorphins and dopamine


real science behind it. Our emotions are translated into molecules and hormones that affect the genetic material.”


the role of exercise When it comes to fixing our mental software, exercise is a crucial part of the process. “We’re living in an era plagued by anxiety,” says Alonso. “When we’re anxious, the stress hormone cortisol builds up in our bodies, causing neurons in an area of our brain called the hypocampus to die. The hypocampus is important for helping us not to panic, and also for learning new skills and concepts – you can imagine the impact losing a number of those neurons has on our ability to cope with challenges. “During exercise, we release


hormones such as oxytocin, endorphins and dopamine, which reduce anxiety. This lowers the level of cortisol in our system, allowing new neurons to replace those that have died.” As well as its impact on mental


capability, exercise can have powerful implications for physical health. “All kinds of disease can be alleviated for a


very simple reason: exercise increases appetite, which is essential for getting the nutrients you need; it improves sleep patterns, and it boosts the immune system,” says Alonso. “Exercise is valuable for fi ghting disease, but its true value is its ability to reduce our chances of getting sick and boosting vitality.” In terms of what the fi tness industry


can do to promote this message, Alonso has the following advice. “There’s a wealth of research which backs up the importance of what [health clubs] are doing. They should be more of aware of this and willing to share it. In these times of uncertainty, people really need to understand the impact exercise can have on their lives.”


ABOUT THE 10TH ANNUAL IHRSA EUROPEAN CONGRESS


Venue: Princesa Sofia Hotel, Barcelona, Spain


Dates: 18–21 October 2010 Details: www.ihrsa.org/congress, or call +1 617 951 0055


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