One of the simplest ways to stay healthier for longer is to be regularly active. In some respects it is amazing that we need to be reminded of this. Up until fairly recent times being active was not optional-it was necessary for survival.
Our ancestors would only be able to eat if they caught or gathered food, both of which require exertion. Even after the advent of commercial agriculture most forms of work were physical. On top of that to get from A to B required physical effort.
If we examine our daily routine, it is remarkable how much the requirement for physical activity has been removed. Simple domestic tasks like washing the clothes and the dishes have both been automated. Even one generation ago you needed to get up out of the chair to change TV channels and get out of your car to open the garage door. You can even get pre chopped up vegetables now days!
It has been estimated that the amount of calories “not used” up in a year due to labor saving devices could be as much as 2kg of weight. By the end of 10 years that’s 20kg by eating exactly the same as you might have done 30 years ago!
Two common questions about exercise are, is it too late to start and when will I find the time. There is great news then, on both these fronts. An Israeli study showed that life expectancy in 85 year olds increased when they were active for 4 hours per week. There was a benefit even if they had not been active before this. In addition they reported feeling less down and had greater confidence in tackling everyday tasks.
At the other end of the spectrum a Norwegian study showed that women who exercised regularly in pregnancy avoided having babies with excessive birth weight, which is a plus for mother and baby. Not surprisingly there are plenty of studies around showing benefit to people at all ages.
So you are never too old or too young to start.
Lack of time is the number one excuse given for not exercising. A recent survey across many countries showed that the average time spent each day watching TV was at least 3 hours. That is 21 hours per week or nearly one whole day out of every week!!
A reasonable exercise program is generally regarded as being 30 minutes, 4 times a week or a minimum of 2 hours. This is 10% of average TV time. Put simply there is time there if you choose to look for it.
However any amount of exercise is better than none. If you can only start with ten minutes then do that. New work from the USA has shown that any amount of exercise is more beneficial than none.
And herein lies the key. Exercise will happen and you will get the benefits when you choose to do it. This is really simple. There is no need for government programs, no need to wait till tomorrow and no need to spend a single cent. You can start walking today. If you haven’t done much for a while start at a low level. Just go around the block. After a week or two go around a bigger block. Gradually expand the distance. Increase your pace if you want to.
If you don’t like walking, you can swim or bike a ride, if you want to invest some money join a gym or get a personal trainer. There are many choices.
The single most important choice is choosing to be active regularly.