Exercise: It Does Not Take Much
Recent research at Tuft’s University discovered profound benefits associated with staying active during the 50 and better years. Even the smallest amount of physical activity can have a large impact on your health and well-being. According to Miriam E. Nelson, PhD, Director of Tuft’s John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention, “If you look at the health of people from along the whole spectrum, from very sedentary to athletes, the fitness graph isn’t a straight line. It turns out that the biggest jump comes at the very bottom of the range. The less active you are now, the more benefit you get from adding even a small amount of exercise to your life” (Health & Nutrition Letter, Tuft’s University, p. 3). A Swedish Study examined the physically active, “chronologically-enriched” (SCW Fitness Education) population, who were 75+ years of age. This population increased longevity by 5.4 years compared to their less active peers!
Active Agers who exercise together also improve their social age! While exercise is the most important component for longevity, socialization is a close second. Researchers from the Karolinska Institute studied 1,810 men and women 75+ years of age for 18 years. Participants answered questions about leisure activities, education, occupation, smoking, alcohol use, and frequency of contact with family and friends at the start of the study. Despite just over 90% of the participants died throughout the study’s duration, from these lifestyle elements, a strong social network was almost as effective as exercise to increase lifespan.
Exercise improves physical health, increases socialization, and recent research found that daily movement decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of cognitive decline. The most active participants improved their mental age by 10 years! In addition, these participants showed the largest volume of grey matter in brain areas commonly affected by cognitive impairments. (Tuft’s University, Health & Nutrition Letter, 2016, vol. 34, i.5).
In the United States, less than 10% of adults meet the criteria for exercise: 150 minutes of light-moderate intensity exercise each week (at least 5 days per week) or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise each week (at least 3 days per week).
What small steps can I take each day to become healthier and more active
- Exercise for 10 minutes 3 times each day.
- Incorporate exercise into your activities of daily living (ADLs). For example, use the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away at the grocery store, and/or perform more daily chores in a standing position.
- Exercise with friends and/or family. For example, plan and commit to a scenic hike 3 days a week or participate in a fun group exercise class at a local fitness center.
- Eat more fresh, whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish, and less meat and meat products.
- Choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, instead of saturated fats (eg. butter).
- Drink alcohol in moderation: 2 glass per day limit for men and 1 glass per day limit for women.