Exercises your liver loves
As you kick off the new year, maybe you have a healthy cleanse for your system on your mind. Your liver plays a key role in detoxifying your body, and you can support its function with certain lifestyle habits. According to a personal trainer and hepatologist (that’s the medical term for a liver doctor!), exercise in particular can deliver tremendous benefits for liver health.
Many liver specialists consider a “fatty liver” to be the most common threat to liver wellness. Fatty liver disease is an increased build-up of fat in the liver that occurs when an unhealthy diet or toxins cause excess fat to be stored inside an individual’s liver cells. Fatty liver disease can be associated with excess weight or high alcohol intake.
Dr Nancy Reau, section chief of hepatology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, explain how excess liver fat can affect a person’s entire system. “Not only can fat in the liver be dangerous on its own,” Dr Reau says, “liver fat can also increase the risk of liver damage from other insults (like medications or viral infections).”
Dr Reau suggests that while everyone should aim to move for a little while each day, it’s especially crucial for patients who are managing their liver health. The findings of a 2018 study at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) back up Dr Reau’s points, as the study concluded that “physical exercise is a proven therapeutic strategy to improve fatty liver disease.”
How does exercise help repair the liver?
“Your muscle mass actually helps support the liver,” Dr Reau adds. “This is especially important when your liver isn’t healthy, as your muscle is helping it complete some of the jobs it should be doing, like processing ammonia.”
That’s one major reason getting daily movement is so integral to good liver health. The second? “Regular exercise will help decrease inflammation and improve blood flow,” Dr Reau says. “These changes decrease the stress signals in the liver and help it repair.”
Third, Dr Reau says, “Regular exercise will also reduce the fat in the liver. Imagine the fat as fuel stored in the liver, and exercise is going to consume this energy.”
What is the best exercise for your liver?
Dr Reau says when it comes to liver health, the best exercise “is something that you like and will do on a regular basis,” ideally moving your body for 20 to 30 minutes every day. “The general rule is to do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, along with strength training at least two days a week,” Dr Reau says.
One key she adds, especially for people who are currently managing liver issues: “It is most important that you exercise safely … It never hurts to talk to your doctor first.”
Dr Reau and Hillary Lewis, a certified personal trainer, list a few exercise routines that can yield significant benefit for your liver.