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The Effect Of Exercise On Your Liver

Your liver performs more than 500 intricate tasks that enable other body processes to function properly. Taking good care of your liver is therefore essential, and an important part of this good care is regular exercise.

Exercise is an important practice in the fight against liver disease. Regular exercise will increase energy levels, strengthen your immune system, and, by aiding in the maintenance of a healthy body weight, even decrease the risk of developing certain complications associated with liver disease.

It is recommended that you do both aerobic exercise, such as walking, running, swimming or cycling, and weight-bearing exercise, such as weight training, for the best effects

Aerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise involves repetitive, large muscle movements that increase your heart rate and change your breathing pattern. This increases the amount of oxygen you take in and speeds up delivery of oxygen to vital body organs, including your liver.

As you become more aerobically fit, the heart won’t have to work as hard to pump blood to the rest of the body. Your pulse will begin to slow down, making it easier for the liver to send back to the body the blood that it has just filtered. Being aerobically fit will also improve your overall energy levels.

A study conducted at the Cleveland Clinic in the US in 2011 of obese people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease revealed that walking on a treadmill for just one hour a day not only increased insulin sensitivity, but also improved liver health.

‘We like to think of exercise as medicine,’ says the study’s Dr. Jacob M Haus.

Weight-bearing exercise
Weight training improves overall strength in both bones and muscles. This kind of exercise is important for all people, with or without liver disease, for three reasons:

1. Overweight people are at risk of developing a fatty liver; weight training has been shown to decrease excess body fat and may reduce this risk of developing certain types of liver disease.5
2. Patients with liver disease are prone to bone loss, which may lead to osteoporosis.6 Weight training is a good way to maintain and improve bone health7.
3. In advanced stages of liver disease, muscle depletion often occurs. Although it requires more investigation, it has been hypothesized that exercise aimed at building up muscles could improve muscle wasting

Where to start
If you’re not currently doing much exercise, a good start would be 10-20 minutes of aerobic exercise followed by a few weight-bearing exercises three times a week. Gradually build up your workout frequency until you are exercising five times a week, or more5.

Please note: It is essential to consult your doctor before you start any new exercise programme.

1. “Liver Facts.” Liver Facts – Liver Information | Canadian Liver Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.
2. Canadian Liver Foundation. “Nutrition & Exercise.” Web. 16 May 2017.
3. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Aerobic Exercise: Top 10 Reasons to Get Physical.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 24 Feb. 2017. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.
4. American Physiological Society. “Aerobic exercise may improve non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 03 April 2011.
5. Lohrey, J. “The Effect of Exercise on Liver Function.” Livestrong. Livestrong, 24 Oct, 2010. Web. 13 April 2017.
6. Nakchbandi, Inaam A. “Osteoporosis and fractures in liver disease: relevance, pathogenesis and therapeutic implications.” World J Gastroenterol20.28 (2014): 9427-9438.
7. Layne, Jennifer E., and MIRIAM E. Nelson. “The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 31.1 (1999): 25-30.
8. Kalafateli, Maria, et al. “Impact of muscle wasting on survival in patients with liver cirrhosis.” World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 21.24 (2015): 7357.