A while back I caught a conversation between two colleagues, one of whom was wondering if it was worth spending more on signing up to a better gym. The other colleague looked at him and simply summed up the dilemma – “You have two options: either spend the money on a gym you will want to go to, or save them for the medications you will need in the future because of lack of exercise now.” Even though a bit extreme, this conclusion reflects the fact that exercise is an antidote to a number of health issues, such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, asthma, back pain, dementia and others. In fact, several studies claim that well-planned exercise not only protects but often prolongs and improves the quality of life.
And so how much exercise do we need?
Our ancestors were nomads and had a well-maintained cardiovascular system. If you want to reach their level, you should make as much as 15,000 steps daily, which increases the chance of prolonging your life. However, if exercise is too much effort for you, it is good to know that the combination of being overweight and the lack of exercise is comparable to the harm inflicted by smoking.
According to the American Medical Association, a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise or 75 minutes of dynamic exercise is recommended per week, plus additional strength exercise of at least 12 to 15 sets. The combination of cardio and strength training is considered the best way to stay in shape and lose weight. It is important that movement is distributed proportionally throughout the week and not concentrated in one day. Studies show that more exercise significantly improves longevity. Adults who move 100 minutes a day are 80% more likely to live longer than those who spend all their time sitting on the couch.
So why do we think exercise leads to a longer life?
Studies show that telomere length is linked to the length of our youth. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes that protect our DNA and are involved in the process of cell division. As we age, from repeated cell replication, telomeres “wear out” and errors in newly formed cells increase. Thus, if we can slow down or reverse the process of telomere degradation, our biological ageing will slow down, and we can enjoy a longer and better life. According to recent research, healthy eating, stress reduction and exercise have a direct impact on the process of telomere destruction. In short, if you exercise, your telomeres will be in good shape for longer and your biological age will improve.
But perhaps the most positive part of exercising is that it improves one’s mood and mental health. In situations like today, where many people are forced to reduce their social contacts and outings, depression and anxiety increase for many of us. The advice of Vitu psychologists is that exercise naturally supports mental health. Be kind to your body and this will resonate in your psyche or ‘healthy body, healthy mind’!