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Regular exercise improves your exercise capacity

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On any given day there are thousands of human health studies in progress. But all the studies and dramatic breakthroughs in the world will rarely bring you better advice than this health tip: Regular exercise improves your “exercise capacity.” And as I told you in an e-Alert last year, studies show that you can significantly increase your chances of adding more healthy years to your life by raising your exercise capacity with just a few minutes of exercise every day.

Now a new study demonstrates that a high intake of a single vitamin may provide a perfect anti-aging complement to any exercise regimen – especially for older adults.

Combining benefits

The beneficial antioxidant properties of vitamin E are no secret, but their association with exercise is better understood now, thanks to the results of a study from the University of Florida College of Nursing.

UF researchers recruited just under 60 men and women (ages 60 to 75) who lived in the same retirement community. Although each subject was considered to be in good health, none of them exercised regularly. Subjects were divided into two groups: one group participated in supervised exercise for one hour twice each week for 16 weeks (with time and intensity of exercise increased toward the middle of the study period), and another group refrained from exercise. Also, half of the subjects of each group were randomly selected to receive 800 international units (IU) of vitamin E daily (considerably higher than the RDA of 30 IU per day), while all others received a placebo.

Using blood samples, the researchers measured blood serum concentrations of lipid hydroperoxide (LH); a marker that indicates levels of oxidative stress. The results: As you might suspect, there were no significant changes in the group that didn’t exercise and received the placebo. But the LH levels indicated that those who received the daily dose of vitamin E had only half as much antioxidant damage as they had when the trial began; and this was true for both the exercise and non-exercise groups.

In addition, the group that didn’t exercise and took vitamin E showed an average reduction in their systolic blood pressure of nearly seven points. Meanwhile the exercise/vitamin E group lowered their systolic BP reading (on average) by nearly 15 points, and their diastolic BP by about five points. This group also experienced other healthy results such as improved cardiovascular health (measured by resting oxygen uptake) and weight loss.

Antioxidant fadeaway

The lead researcher of the UF study, James Jessup, PhD, RN, told the University of Florida News that when we reach our 40s, most people begin to naturally produce fewer amounts of antioxidants, but larger amounts of free radicals. Therefore, it becomes progressively more difficult to get the amounts of vitamin E necessary to fight free radicals through diet alone.

Good dietary sources of vitamin E include spinach, eggs, nuts and seeds, avocado, tomatoes, peaches, and blackberries. But based on his study results, Dr. Jessup suggests that older adults will benefit from a vitamin E supplement, “because of its clear benefits to aging and systolic blood pressure.”

Dr. Jessup’s opinion is in line with previous information I’ve shared with you about vitamin E. As you may recall from the e-Alert “C-ing Double” (6/12/03), HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., recommends 400 IU of vitamin E daily, as well as 200 mcg of selenium for general antioxidant protection. And while it is possible to get too much selenium, a range of 200-400 mcg daily is considered quite safe.

Read that supplement label carefully

In response to a recent e-Alert that discussed the best form of vitamin E to take, I received this e-mail from an HSI member named Don:

“You say do not take Vitamin E in the form dl-alpha tocopherol internally. Please explain to me why not? It is sold in this form in Australia.”

The question of which type of vitamin E is best is something we’ve covered before, but because it’s so important (and because Don asked) it bears repeating. Dr. Spreen explains that dl-alpha tocopherol is synthetic, and only half of the molecules in this type of vitamin E are utilized by the body.

But as Dr. Spreen explains, “It gets worse. Because using the alpha fraction without the other fractions – beta, delta, and gamma – causes the other fractions to decrease in value. This is why good supplements are always of the ‘mixed tocopherol’ variety, containing all the fractions.”

Do the combo

Again and again, we’ve see reports on studies that confirm the importance of vitamin E. And as the UF research shows, that importance increases as we grow older. The same can be said of a commitment to regular exercise, which can improve the functions of virtually every system in your body. It’s good to know that even greater benefits may be available when exercise and vitamin E are combined.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

“The Effects of Endurance Exercise and Vitamin E on Oxidative Stress in the Elderly” Biological Research for Nursing, 2003, July; 5(1): 47-55,

“Vitamin E Pill with Exercise Regime could Slow Aging”, 8/4/03,

“Vitamin E, Exercise Prevent Aging Damage” Sid Kirchheimer, WebMD Medical News, 7/31/03,

“UF Researcher Finds Vitamins and Exercise May Slow the Harmful Effects of Aging” University of Florida News, 7/29/03,