A new study by researchers has found that even light or moderately intense physical activity, such as walking or cycling, can substantially reduce your risk of early death.
The study combined the results from the largest studies around the world on the health impact of light and moderately intense physical activity.
Although more activity is better, the benefits of even a small amount of physical activity were very large in the least physically active group of people.
Science Daily reports:
"The good news from this study is that you don't have to be an exercise freak to benefit from physical activity.
Just achieving the recommended levels of physical activity (equivalent to 30 minutes daily of moderate intensity activity on 5 days a week) reduces the risk of death by 19 percent ... while 7 hours per week of moderate activity (compared with no activity) reduces the risk of death by 24 percent".
Science Daily July 25, 2010
International Journal of Epidemiology July 14, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Exercising is truly one of the best and most important actions you can do for your health. Being physically active causes a beneficial ripple effect that typically starts off with a reduction in weight. Your body is in fact designed to operate best when it's at an ideal weight, which will vary slightly from person to person.
Carrying around extra pounds will inevitably increase your risk of developing just about every chronic degenerative disease there is, and exercising creates the opposite effect – helping you reduce your risk of disease and increase your chances of living longer.
This is because the underlying cause of excess weight is typically an unhealthy diet paired with insufficient exercise, which leads to surging insulin and leptin levels that eventually results in insulin resistance. And it is insulin resistance that is one of the primary causes of many of these chronic diseases.
So exercising sets into motion a beneficial feedback loop that leads to ever greater levels of health, while lack of exercise makes your health spiral downward and opens the door to disease and premature aging.
As this latest meta study shows, just meeting the minimum requirement of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, five days a week, can reduce your risk of death from any cause by 19 percent.
This makes perfect sense, as exercise can lower your risk of several common killers, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression.
The More You Put Into it, the More You Get in Return
The meta analysis, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology last month, included a total of 22 studies evaluating the impact of exercise on mortality of nearly 1 million people.
It clearly shows that if you are currently living a very sedentary lifestyle, the mere act of incorporating some light- to moderate activity, five days a week, can significantly reduce your mortality rate. Those who engaged in moderate intensity activity a full seven days a week further reduced their risk of death, from 19 to 24 percent.
The smallest health effect, however, was seen in people who limited their exercise to just walking, so although it's better than nothing, if you're physically able, I strongly recommend you consider including a few other modes of activity to boost your benefits.
The problem with using walking as your primary form of activity is that for most people it simply is just not intense enough to induce a training response. In most cases, even if you're out of shape to begin with, your body will quickly adapt to your walking routine and will require a greater challenge to reap the most benefits.
If you are seriously out of shape, very overweight, or recovering from illness then it certainly makes sense to use walking. However, even in these instances you'll want to make sure you incorporate intervals of 30 seconds or so in which you are walking really fast. The goal is to get you out of breath with a higher level of intensity.
The Many Health Benefits of Exercise
Just as there are at least 20 diseases and conditions directly attributable to being overweight, there are a large number of health benefits that are directly attributable to exercise.
By improving your physical fitness, you can effectively:
* Lower your triglyceride levels
* Increase your levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL)
* Lower your blood glucose levels
* Normalize your insulin levels
All of these factors are indicators of "metabolic fitness," which is a cornerstone of optimal health. Even older people who do endurance exercise training end up with metabolically younger hearts.
Additional health benefits, many of which are the direct result of normalizing your insulin levels, include:
In addition, exercise has been associated with preventing telomere shortening, making it a very powerful anti-aging strategy. (For more information on telomeres, please see this previous article.) And, if you exercise properly, which I'll discuss in a moment, you can reap even greater anti-aging benefits.
Great News – You Can Cut Time Spent on Exercise and Get BETTER Results!
With all these benefits, you'd think people would be clamoring to get into the gym, or at least eager to hit the sidewalk for a long walk or run. But statistics, and personal experience, tells us differently. More than half of U.S. adults do not get the recommended amount of exercise, and 24 percent are completely sedentary, according to Forbes.
The most common excuse people give is: lack of time.
Well, this is where I have some great news, because the research tells us that the BEST way to maximize the benefits of exercise is NOT to jog or walk steadily for an hour. Instead, it's to alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods.
I began incorporating this type of exercise earlier this year, and the results speak for themselves. Since then, I've coined the term Peak Fitness, which is a complete fitness program built around these high intensity exercises, which I call Peak 8 exercises. These exercises can be done in a fraction of the time you'd normally spend walking or running.
Still, despite the fact that you will spend less time exercising, Peak 8 exercises can dramatically improve your cardiovascular fitness, your fat-burning capabilities, and, perhaps best of all, will boost your body's natural production of human growth hormone (HGH), often referred to as the "fitness hormone." HGH is also closely involved in the aging process itself, as your levels tend to around the age of 30.
Many athletes inject HGH illegally to achieve fitness, but it is expensive and fraught with side effects. Peak 8 exercises, on the other hand, can actually cause your growth hormone to increase naturally, without any of the expense or side effects.
Quick Summary of Peak 8 Exercises
As I mentioned, Peak Fitness is a complete fitness program that still includes some conventional aerobic and core strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching. But the major addition is the 'Peak 8' exercise, which you do twice a week.
During this 'peak exercise,' you raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a 90-second recovery period. You repeat this cycle for a total of eight repetitions.
These cycles are preceded by a three minute warm up and concluded with a two minute cool down, cutting your total time investment down to a mere 20 minutes.
For a more complete, in-depth explanation of my peak fitness regimen, please review this recent article. Implementing peak exercises may be one of the best lifestyle changes you could ever make!
Getting Back Into the Groove
If you're just getting back into exercising, you'll need to work your way up slowly. Trying to do too much at once can lead to burnout and make you less likely to continue your program.
To start, you might try jogging for a very short period and increasing it slowly over time. Or you might try walking interspersed with a period of fast walking to incorporate the Peak 8 ideology. Then, as your body grows more conditioned, you can increase to a higher intensity workout.
Also keep in mind that it's best to vary your exercises to cover all the facets of the Peak Fitness program, which includes:
* Peak 8 exercises
* Conventional aerobics
* Strength training
* Core exercises
If you experience emotional resistance, you may want to try a few of the recommendations from the article Five Ways to Pick up the Exercise Habit Again.
Taking your fitness routine outdoors can also add some incentive, and spending time outdoors is typically an invigorating experience in and of itself. Google can help here, as it has launched a feature that makes finding local bicycling trails easy.
As you remove the emotional resistance that is keeping you from exercising, and plan regular workouts to fit into your schedule, you'll have an easier time sticking to your exercise routine. And the more you exercise -- and therefore the more benefits you experience -- the more addictive it becomes.
You won't need enormous levels of discipline as you will feel so good after regular exercise, you just won't want to stop and lose that feeling.
Soon you'll be looking forward to your workouts and the great feeling you'll get afterward. So go ahead, take the plunge! You'll thank yourself over and over in the years to come.