Habitual regular exercise - the benefits are there even decades later
Tips to make it easy
Moderate and regular exercise is an effective disease preventative. Even after the disease has occurred, it is a better option than pharmaceutical drugs in almost every case. (2)
Regular exercise as a younger adult leads to a slimmer waist and a trimmer body in mid-and-later life. (1)
Need some inspiration to get into the habit? Here's some research that shows that if you're physically active throughout your early adulthood, you can look forward to a slimmer, trimmer, more able, more functional body that looks better and lets you enjoy better sex. This research is about the benefits of long-term exercise as a younger adult, but of course there are incredible benefits to exercise at all ages, as I detail in Grow Youthful.
For women, the improved figures (notice the pun?) are quite dramatic. The prospective longitudinal study with 20 years of follow-up (1985-1986 to 2005-2006) examined 3,554 men and women who were aged 18 to 30 years at the start of the study. The biggest benefits were for people who habitually exercised with moderate and vigorous-intensity activities over the previous year, including sports, exercise, home maintenance, and occupational activities. All it takes is habitual exercise of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. In other words, this only requires half an hour per day, five days per week.
The women were 6.1 kg (13.4 pounds) lighter, and had a 3.8 cm (1.5 inches) narrower waistline. Men also enjoy a significant benefit, with the participants 2.6 kg (5.7 pounds) lighter and having a 3.1 cm (1.2 inches) narrower waistline.
Another long-term study, this time of Swedish women, found that those with high cardiovascular fitness (stamina) had a staggering 88% lower risk of dementia than those who were moderately fit. (3)
Tips to make it easy
- Put it in your diary and stick to it. Ask yourself why you're doing it. To look better, to have more energy, to lose weight, to ease aches and pains, to heal an ailment, to provide an example to your family?
- Start slow. Be gentle on your body. This is about long-term enjoyable exercise, not masochism.
- Match your activities to your personality. Are you a social animal? Sign up for a Zumba class. Need motivation? Sign up for a class, or a personal trainer. Or perhaps set exercise dates with a friend or family member. They'll love it! Or if you need some space and time out, do a power walk or jog by yourself.
- When is the best time of the day to exercise?
1. Arlene L. Hankinson, Martha L. Daviglus, Claude Bouchard, Mercedes Carnethon, Cora E. Lewis, Pamela J. Schreiner, Kiang Liu,
Maintaining a High Physical Activity Level Over 20 Years and Weight Gain.
JAMA (2010). 304(23):2603-2610.
2. Huseyin Naci, John P A Ioannidis. Comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions on mortality outcomes: metaepidemiological study. BMJ 2013; 347. Published 1 October 2013.
3. Helena Horder, Lena Johansson, XinXin Guo, Gunnar Grimby, Silke Kern, Svante Ostling, Ingmar Skoog. Midlife cardiovascular fitness and dementia: A 44-year longitudinal population study in women. Neurology, 14 March 2018. DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005290.