Focus On: Pandemic Fitness for Dentists

Uche Odiatu, DMD


Uche Odiatu, DMD, discusses how most of us spent more time at home and less time working out this year, and that’s on top of our somewhat sedentary jobs as dentists.

Q: How can we stay in good physical shape?
A: Most people want to get in shape and exercise to get a flat stomach or look better for Facebook. However, exercise is so much more about brain health. There is a neurotransmitter called brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), and it helps all the communications with the 100 billion neurons in our brains. Anyone who is physically active has more BDNF in their brains. Research at Stanford University shows “… the brain continues to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neurotrophic factors, such as BDNF, promote survival and aid in the regeneration of adult neurons….Scientists increasingly recognize the capacity of physical activity to maintain and compensate for the deterioration of nerve cell function. Numerous animal studies have reported that voluntary exercise leads to increased BDNF production.” The body has the ability to learn faster and have better communication, and it is all from physical activity. You cannot inject it or surgically enhance it; it is all about the science and benefits of movement.

There are 600 muscles in the body, which account for almost half of our body weight, that are “designed” to make our bodies move. Every time you move, the muscles release hundreds of myokines that tell every organ, every tissue, and every cell you are alive. Skeletal proteins named myokines are synthesized and secreted in response to muscle contraction. A recent study showed that “exercise-induced myokine can yield an anti-inflammatory action that can counteract not only acute inflammation due to infection but also chronic low-grade inflammation raised as consequence of physical inactivity, aging or metabolic disorders.” Rigor mortis is death; movement is life. People who move have more life to their organs and tissues.

Q: What’s more important, diet or exercise?
A: People always ask that. You need both, but ultimately, physical activity is probably the best indicator of having a long life. If you are physically active today, you have a better chance of having a longer life. The American College of Sports Medicine champions the message Exercise is Medicine. Exercise is much more than a tool to flatten your belly; regular movement boosts the aforementioned BDNF and about 200 chemicals that flood the body with “alive” messages. The more you know the science, the more you realize that it creates a tsunami of evidence that is certainly better than “I heard it is good for you.” People say broccoli and cauliflower are good for you. The science behind cruciferous vegetables is that they strengthen the intraepithelial cells in your gut lining, keeping pathogenic bacteria out of your system.

Q: How can you get enough exercise without a home gym or doing virtual workouts?
A: This is where being physically active comes in. People get focused on hitting 10,000 steps, while most barely reach 5,000. You can build exercise into your day by doing simple tasks. Most people say they don’t exercise because they don’t have the time. So why not have “exercise snacks” in your day? Go up and down those stairs twice. Walk outside and put the garbage out. An Australian study showed that if you regularly move—which is about once every 30 minutes—and move for just 2 minutes, you take fat and sugar outside of your blood supply and into your muscles.

Q: What else do you recommend?
A: Your circadian rhythm is also important in your overall health. There is a suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus in each hemisphere of the brain—a 20,000-cell pack of neurons—and the brain loves to have sun first thing in the morning. You can actually reset the body’s rhythm and even sleep better by getting sunlight between 8:00 and 10:30 am in the morning. This nucleus is a pack of neurons in the center of the brain, so when you get light in your eyes and on your skin, you are resetting your circadian rhythm. Note that even on a cloudy day, there is a lot of light that gets through to you. A recent study at Harvard Medical School studied a group of 25 people who were locked in windowless rooms for a month. They found that “along with metabolism and sleep patterns, the circadian system influences many important functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels, and urine production. Circadian disruptions and lack of sleep have been associated with serious health problems ranging from cancer to obesity to depression.” As a business leader, as a dentist, and as a human, you can actually make your brain work better, extend your life, and have less pain.

Another factor is eating the right amount of fiber. Most people don’t know that women should eat 25 grams and men should eat 35 grams of fiber a day. Our intestinal flora has 100 trillion single-cell organisms, which make short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)—the most potent anti-inflammatory agents in the body. Studies show that 95% of the population doesn’t get the required amount of fiber a day. It is one of the underlying causes of aches, pains, inflammation of the joints, and even periodontal disease that never gets better without these SCFAs. Fiber, which is inexpensive (and not a drug), is fundamental to your health and will put out the fires in your body.

Dr. Odiatu has a DMD degree, is a professional member of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is a certified personal trainer (National Strength & Conditioning Association and the Canadian Association of Fitness Professionals). He is coauthor of The Miracle of Health: Simple Solutions, Extraordinary Results and has lectured in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, the UK, and Europe. He can be reached at his website,; via email at; or at the Instagram handle @fitspeakers.

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