Reserch has shown that getting fit in middle age could be as good for you as starting young when it comes to reducing the risk of an early death. But the reverse is also true.
If you have been fit and drop off in later years, there is no difference in the risk of an early death when compared to those who had always been couch potatoes. In other words, there’s no bank, no accumulation of the protective effect of exercise and for having been fit in younger years.
Nicola K S Davis, writing at The Guardian:
“If you are not active and you get to your 40s-50s and you decide to become active, you can still enjoy a lot of those benefits.”
The study, published in the journal Jama Network Open, was based on data from more than 300,000 Americans aged 50-71 who undertook a questionnaire in the mid-1990s. They were asked to estimate the extent of their moderate to vigorous leisure exercise at different stages of their life. Researchers then used national records to track who died in the years up to the end of 2011, and from what.
After taking into account factors including age, sex, smoking and diet, the team found that those who were exercising into middle age had a lower risk of death from any cause in the years that followed than those who had never carried out any leisure exercise. However, when the team looked at 10 different patterns in the way people were active over their life, it found a surprise.
Men and women who ramped up their activity gradually to about seven hours a week by the age of 40-61 reduced their risk of death from any cause in the years that followed by about 35%. The benefit was similar to that seen for people who reached and maintained similar activity from their teens or 20s onwards, or who exercised at such a level when young and middle-aged but dipped in activity in their 30s.
When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.
There is no magic shield against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Supplements don’t work. Yet there is evidence that some strategies may help.
Paula Span at the New York Times writes:
Increased physical activity;
Blood pressure management for people with hypertension, particularly in midlife;
And cognitive training.
That last recommendation doesn’t necessarily refer to commercial online brain games, said Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a neuropsychiatrist and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who served on the panel.
“It’s really the concept of being mentally active,” she said. “Find something you enjoy where you’re learning something new, challenging and stimulating your brain.”
Though the evidence to date doesn’t establish which mental workouts have the greatest impact or how often people should engage in them, “they’re not expensive and they don’t cause side effects,” Dr. Yaffe pointed out.
The blood pressure recommendation got a boost in January with the latest findings from the Sprint trial, a multisite study stopped early in 2015 when intensive treatment of hypertension (a systolic blood pressure goal of less than 120, compared to the standard 140) was shown to reduce cardiovascular events and deaths.
Your primary goal should be to get active and stay motivated to keep moving.
Scott Douglas writing for the Washington Post:
If you’re the kind of exerciser who constantly checks your heart rate to ensure you’re in the fat-burning zone, you should stop. You’ll probably never meet your weight-loss goals that way. That’s because there’s no special fat-burning zone that’s key to getting lean.
Your body primarily fuels itself by burning a mix of stored fat and carbohydrates. The less active you are at a given moment, the greater the percentage of that fuel mix comes from fat. As your intensity of activity increases, the percentage of carbohydrates in that fuel mix also increases. At rest, fat constitutes as much as 85 percent of calories burned. That figure shifts to about 70 percent at an easy walking pace. If you transition to a moderate-effort run, the mix becomes about 50 percent fat and 50 percent carbohydrates, and it moves increasingly toward carbohydrates the faster you go.
Increasingly researchers are finding that your intestines not only digest food, but may also regulate mood, emotion, and play a central role in your body’s response to disease.
What you eat feeds every single cell in your body.
Sushrut Jangi, The Boston Globe:
Avoid processed deli meats and red meat while feeding the dense jungle of bacteria in the colon with fibers, fruits, and vegetables. Siegel says unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles rife with fast foods and processed meats are contributing to the rise in colon cancer among young people. A lot of people go to the deli and buy very expensive turkey breast and think they are eating healthy, Siegel says. Shifting away from the standard Western diet to the Mediterranean diet — composed primarily of plant-based foods, olive oil, fish, and mixed nuts — supports both gut health and a healthy heart. Sprinkling food with curcumin — the activated ingredient in turmeric — may dampen inflammation. Routine exercise staves off obesity, which does wonders for the gastrointestinal tract and reduces cancer risk. While particular diets are effective in treating specific gut conditions, consult with a gastroenterologist or nutritionist before pursuing anything radical.
Social connections look to be a major component of any sport’s longevity benefits.
James Bullen at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
What the researchers think the sports associated with the biggest increases in life expectancy — tennis (9.7 years), badminton (6.2 years) and soccer (4.7 years) have in common is that it takes two or more people to play them.
“The tennis players, they maybe take a beer or something else to drink after the game. They are two at least,” Dr Schnohr said.
Sports near the bottom of the list were more typically done alone, like jogging (3.2 years) and going to the gym (1.5 years).
“I go to a gym twice a week and I don’t talk to anybody. It’s very lonely in Denmark, I don’t know how it is in Australia. But it’s very lonely. You just do this and then you go home. And then you don’t get the social aspect. We think the social aspect is very important.”
There is good evidence that strong social bonds have a protective effect on a person’s health.
A decade ago, an Australian sports-medicine physician named Craig Richards launched a ferocious broadside at the running-shoe industry. Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, he and two colleagues argued that there was no evidence whatsoever that modern running shoes prevented injuries – and that, as a result, such shoes should be considered “unproven technology with the potential to cause harm.”
That critique went mostly unnoticed at first. But a year later, in 2009, the bestselling book Born to Run ignited a surge of interest in barefoot and “minimalist” running, and a corresponding wave of scorn for conventional running shoes. Richards and his colleagues suddenly looked prescient – the progenitors of a new, evidence-based approach to footwear.
As the years have passed, though, demonstrating the superiority of other types of running shoes has proven to be more difficult than expected. As a new editorial in the same journal now argues, we’re still waiting for evidence about the injury-preventing powers of running shoes – except that the critique now extends to newer approaches such as minimalist shoes, supercushioned maximalist shoes and even the suggestion that you should simply choose a shoe based on comfort.
The editorial, from physical therapists Chris Napier of the University of British Columbia and Richard Willy of the University of Montana, identifies a series of logical fallacies that permeate current debates about running shoes.
The best running shoe, it could be argued, is the one that is most comfortable for you, will get you out the door, and is on sale.
Doctors in the Shetland Islands have started issuing prescriptions for beach walks, hiking, and birdwatching to help treat chronic and debilitating illnesses. Doctors on the island have been authorized by the health authority to issue “nature prescriptions” to patients to help treat mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, stress, and other conditions.
The health authority, NHS Shetland, is not suggesting that nature prescriptions will replace conventional medicines, but to supplemented usual treatments.
There are various ways that physical activity helps mental wellbeing, including:
Improved mood – Studies show that physical activity has a positive impact on our mood. One study asked people to rate their mood after period of exercise (i.e. walking or gardening) and after inactivity (i.e. reading a book). Researchers found that people felt more awake, calmer and more content after physical activity. For more information and a link to the study, go to the Mental Health Foundation website.
Reducedstress – Being regularly active is shown to have a beneficial impact on alleviating stress. It can help manage stressful lifestyles and can help us make better decisions when under pressure. Research on working adults shows that active people tend to have lower stress rates compared to those who are less active.
Betterself-esteem – Physical activity has a big impact of our self-esteem – that’s how we feel about ourselves and our perceived self-worth. This is a key indicator of mental wellbeing. Those with improved self-esteem can cope better with stress and improves relationships with others.
Depression and anxiety – Exercise has been described as a “wonder drug” in preventing and managing mental health. Many GPs now prescribe physical activity for depression, either on its own or in conjunction with other treatments. It is effective at both preventing onset of depression and in terms of managing symptoms.
Evidence-based research has found three behaviors that lead to higher scores on tests of mental ability in children: at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, nine to 11 hours of sleep a night, and no more than two hours a day of recreational screen time.
According to the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth, for kids between the ages of eight and 11, it should include at least 60 minutes of physical activity, two hours or less of recreational screen time, and nine to 11 hours of sleep. Yet, in a new study, only one in 20 US children met all three of these recommendations.
The research, published on Thursday (Sept. 27) in the academic journal Lancet Child & Adolescent Health (paywall), used data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, a 10-year, longitudinal, observational study of over 4,500 children between eight and 11 years old, from 21 study sites across the US, and compared their daily exercise, technology, and sleep habits to the guidelines. The researchers then assessed the participants’ “global cognition” with standards developed by the National Institute of Health.
They found that only 5% of children met all three recommendations. Sixty-three percent of children spent more than two hours a day staring at screens, going over the screen-time limit; 82% of children failed to meet the guidelines for daily physical activity; and 49% did not get the recommended hours of sleep. Twenty-nine percent met none of the recommended standards.