If we ask, “What is really important?” to live longer and feel better must be high on the list. But then we think an exotic beach holiday or a new car is really, really, important and forget about all that live longer and feel better nonsense. The truth is if you feel good you will enjoy the holiday or the car more and if you live longer you can have more of what you enjoy. A no brainer really and something most of us can achieve.
One of the best ways of living longer is to get enough exercise. It is not the only way and it is unlikely to work if you just jog to your local fast food outlet, because what you eat is important as well. But exercise is a major part of a longer life. It must be regular and that means a minimum of 150 minutes a week. That could be split into about 40 minutes a day for 4 days to about 25 minutes a day for 7 days depending on what you prefer or how you can fit exercise into a busy schedule. You do not have to do exactly 150 minutes just there or thereabouts.
Exercise is a commitment and although you may live longer what will you achieve short term?
Weight loss: One of the biggest reasons to exercise. Not only will you feel better you are less likely to get many illnesses including heart disease, high blood pressure, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.
Decreased muscle loss: We do not think much about muscle loss but it can be scary. From the age of 40 men lose 5 pounds of muscle every 10 years due to reduced levels of human growth hormone (HGH). With the decline in muscle mass we have less ability to burn calories. That means if we do not eat less or exercise more we will put on weight.
Increased metabolism: When we are young our metabolism is fast and we can convert what we consume into energy quickly. As we get older our basic metabolic rate (BMR) slows down. This means our bodies are less able to turn food into energy so it gets stored as fat. We have seen that exercise slows muscle loss and in turn this will reduce the lowering of our BMR as we get older.
These are some of the benefits of exercise, but what sort of exercise? By far the easiest is brisk walking or jogging. Half an hour or more a week weight training will do a lot for your upper body muscles, but it is not essential if you dislike that sort of exercise. Regular exercise and a healthy diet is all you need to live longer and feel better.
How much longer will you live? That depends on environment, good health care, your family history and luck. There is some rather strange research published in the British Medical Journal which suggests that former Olympic athletes, who presumable keep themselves in good shape in later life, live 2.8 years longer than average. I say strange because the sample dated back to 1896 and although huge must have contained so many variables that the figure of 2.8 years may well have been little more than an educated guess. But it is obvious from our own experience that fit elderly people do live longer than unfit elderly people and, whatever our ultimate lifespan, exercise and a healthy diet certainly makes for a better quality of life.
See you soon,
22 December 2012
Photo. martywindle (Flickr)